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Listen Up: Clear Channel's Accused of Payola. Again.

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As Clear Channel owns five major stations in the Dallas market -- among them, KHKS-FM (KISS 106, home to Kidd Kraddick), KDGE-FM (102.1, Your Alleged New Rock Alternative) and KZPS-FM (92.5, the recently rechristened Lone Star) -- this certainly qualifies as local news. And if you're an unsigned local artist trying to get heard on a local Clear Channel station, well, this directly affects you.

Because, see, the Washington, D.C.-based Future of Music Coalition today filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, in which the FMC basically accuses San Antonio-based Clear Channel of payola. Again.

Why? Well, it's a long story that begins with an April settlement reached between the FCC and Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Citadel and Entercom. The FCC had claimed that all four media conglomerates were engaged in payola, which is to say, of course, they were taking money and other goodies from record companies to air those labels' songs. The four agreed to pay a $12.5 million fine -- and, in a separate deal, agreed to air 4,200 hours of music from independent artists not signed to major labels.

Only, the FMC claims today, Clear Channel said it would only live up to the second half of the bargain if those local and independent musicians waved their rights to collect royalties. Clear Channel would play the songs, or at least consider those songs indie artists uploaded directly to a Clear Channel Web site, but only if the conglomerate could play them gratis -- and for as long as its stations wanted. And Clear Channel could do anything it liked with those songs. So says language from a contract FMC provides today in its complaint:

You grant to Clear Channel the royalty-free non-exclusive right and license, in perpetuity (unless terminated earlier by You or Clear Channel as set forth below), to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, digitally perform, publicly display and distribute any sound recordings, compositions, pictures, videos, song lyrics, still images ...

And, as far as FMC's concerned, that's still a pay-for-play policy -- since Clear Channel doesn't have to pay nobody nothing for as long as it likes. Says FMC’s policy director Michael Bracy -- co-owner of the indie label Misra, to which Will Johnson and Centro-matic are signed -- "the fact that Clear Channel would ask artists to give up a valuable royalty as a condition of even having their song considered for airplay questions their commitment to stamping out payola."

The song ain't over yet. --Robert Wilonsky

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