Our radio station, KHTS AM, Santa Clarita inadvertently was swept into the Payola scandal yesterday, not from diligent work by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, but from shoddy reporting by one of the leading national newspapers, the St. Petersburg Times.
Apparently, the Times didn’t do their homework and in an editorial on Thursday, listed our radio station, KHTS-AM, Santa Clarita, owned by Carl Goldman and Jeri Seratti-Goldman of Jeri Lyn Broadcasting, as the first guilty set of call letters in their story, confusing it with the real culprit, Clear Channel owned, KHTS-FM, San Diego.
“We started getting calls from our local newspapers,” stated Carl Goldman. “When the Daily News called, we did a Google Search over the phone with their reporter, and up popped the article. Luckily, our local reporters did their homework, especially when searching Google and seeing 90,000 other payola web stories referencing KHTS-FM with the correct information.”
Our real nightmare began when we contacted the St. Petersburg newspaper to inform them they had their facts wrong and to ask them to make a correction and take the reference off their website.
“They insisted they had to look into it. They said they couldn’t take the reference off of their website. When we asked to speak to someone who had the authority to do so, their assistant editor told us he didn’t know who that could be. They couldn’t believe they could be wrong. We suggested they search Google and sarcastically told them maybe all other 90,000 newspapers from the New York Times to Rolling Stone all have it wrong and they are the only ones with the correct information. We tried to approach them logically, suggesting that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense that Sony would be interested in airplay on a small, local, full service, community based, non-reporting (music reporting to the trade publications) station (KHTS-AM) instead of a major San Diego FM hit music station (KHTS-FM). None of our arguments seemed to have an effect.”
After hours of discussions, they finally agreed to remove the word, “Santa Clarita,” from their website, late last night until they could “look into it further.”. As of this writing, they are still refusing to make the correction to KHTS-FM, San Diego.
Here’s the attached original story that created all the turmoil for us.
You get what they pay for
A Times Editorial
Published July 28, 2005
The Sony Records e-mails recently released by New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer are clear evidence of widespread payola in the radio industry. But they also illustrate how and why today’s commercial radio industry is in decline, with radio airplay for some songs determined not by how much listeners like the artist’s work but how much the record company will pay.
The pay-for-play rules are brazen in the correspondence subpoenaed by Spitzer’s office. One Sony executive lists a $3,600 expense for 63 spins of a Jennifer Lopez single and $17,000 for 250 spins of a Good Charlotte song. Another documents $3,325 spent to buy a plasma TV for a contest at KHTS in Santa Clarita, Calif.
“Two weeks ago, it cost us $4,000 to get Franz Ferdinand on WKSE,” reads one e-mail, tallying the cost of four plane tickets and hotel charges to ferry people from the Buffalo radio station to Miami. “Looking for laptop for promotion on Bow Wow,” says another e-mail, purportedly from the program director of Clear Channel-owned WKKF-FM in Albany, N.Y., setting off a scramble at Sony to find a $1,500 computer.
The e-mails evoke a time many record executives had insisted was long gone, when record companies funneled cash and favors to radio stations in exchange for airplay and promotional support. Other techniques revealed in Sony’s e-mails: using names of fictitious contest winners to hide cash payments and drafting teams of employees to call in requests. No wonder Sony agreed to a settlement which included hiring a compliance officer to stop the payoffs and paying a $10-million fine.
Music fans always have complained that the dominance of giant station owners such as Clear Channel and Infinity has severely narrowed the playlists and formats on commercial radio. But record companies have always blamed sagging profits on Internet file sharing, piracy and the high odds against success.
Now New York’s attorney general has shown the industry how to save itself. Every radio corporation likely has evidence in its own e-mail systems of such activity of pay for play; it is time Clear Channel, Cox Radio, Infinity and other station owners turn over such evidence to state and federal investigators for a serious housecleaning. Only by actively working with law enforcement can station owners redeem themselves for allowing such a corrupt system to strangle the nation’s commercial radio system and recording industry.