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Univision antes up a million bucks for payola violations

It’s been a few years since the FCC reached consent decrees with CBS, Citadel and Clear Channel over illegal pay-for-play schemes, so you think that the major broadcasters would have learned their lesson. Apparently the warning didn’t get translated into Spanish. Yesterday the FCC released a new consent decree [PDF] with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision which requires the company to pay up a cool million dollars.

In a press release [PDF] the FCC says that “Univision radio stations or their employees secretly accepted payment from a record label in exchange for the radio stations giving more frequent airplay to the label’s artists, without making the disclosures to listeners required by section 507 of the Communications Act.” The Department of Justice coordinated with the Commission on the decree and accepted Univision’s plea on criminal charges that were to be filed.

Amongst the violations alleged by the government are several cases where program directors at Univision stations in El Paso, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Sacramento submitted fake invoices to Univision Music for supposed services that were never rendered, and then kept the proceeds. Univision Music Group was sold off two years ago by the broadcaster to the Universal Music Group.

Spanish-language broadcasting is one of the growth sectors in commercial radio broadcasting, and is also quite consolidated with most of the largest radio owners having a stake. For its part Univision owns 70 stations nationwide. While that doesn’t quite hold a candle to Clear Channel, it’s not too shabby either, giving the company a foothold in sixteen of the top Latino markets like Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Jose/San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix. So it should come as no surprise that the same slimy shenanigans would happen in this growing market. Latin music is big business and indie labels and acts pretty much no better chance of commercial radio airplay than their English-language counterparts.

One would like to think that this consent decree might result in a little more indie music hitting the Unvision owned stations, but I doubt it.

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