Commissioner O’Reilly Follows Through


It was back in July when Rolling Stone wrote a lengthy piece that more than hinted that payola was alive and well in radio. Radio Ink followed that up with an interview with Tim Moore from the Audience Development Group, who also more than hinted that he’d been hearing about possible incidents of payola. All of that payola noise promoted FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly to tweet that he’d be looking into the matter by writing a letter to the music industry. He’s a man of his word.

On Wednesday, O’Reilly penned a letter to the CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America Mitch Glazier asking for answers. In that letter, O’Reilly cites the recent press reports with a request for help in ensuring that the practice be discontinued. “While some have asserted that current payola restrictions violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Commission is obligated to comply with the governing statute until instructed otherwise by the courts or by Congress.”

The Commissioner went on to say that the RIAA is uniquely situated to survey the practices of the music industry and help him respond to the press reports regarding alleging payola in order to help determine whether these allegations are occurring. “I also understand concerns have been raised regarding allegations of soliciting artist appearances and performances with implied or express threats against non-participation. I would be happy to review any information regarding these alleged practices as well.”

O’Rielly says his goal is to get to the bottom of existing industry practices to determine whether the law is being followed or whether any problematic conduct must be addressed. And, he would like a response by the end of September.

Read the full letter HERE.


  1. Meanwhile, the payola laws only apply to licensed broadcast radio, not digital radio, so the law doesn’t apply to streaming sites, online radio, or satellite. That’s a huge loophole in the law, and gives those platforms an unfair advantage.

  2. I have worked in radio for decades and the payola issues comes back up every 10-15 years. Last big go-round was with former New York AG Eliot Spitzer.
    I agree it should stop. Too many.songs make it on the air that dont belong because of this practice. (eg Beyonce “Drunk in love” and a large number of Max Martin/Dr. Luke songs) This should researched as corporate music adds.
    Here is my bigger issue. After working as an association manager for a pharmaceutical company, at one point, I can tell you that payola-style practices are widely accepted.
    With the opioid crisis in this country, I dont see how payola should be a major focus, at this very moment. How a bad song was added doesn’t kill anyone. It is illegal and stupid that payola exists.
    After all, crappy songs only hurt the radio stations that play them and listeners tune out. Opiods are being handed out like candy so doctors get a positive score at the hospital. The drug companies are “making donations”, paying doctors per diems to go to a pharmaceutical presentation, flying them and their spouses, putting them up at nice hotels, just fo sit in a 2-3 hour presentation on a new pain management medicine…and no one says a word.
    Listening to bad music feels like death, sometimes, but opiods really can kill anyone that uses them and the problem is spreading.


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