Payola pondered

In light of the failed negotiations with Big Radio, the LAT‘s editorial page poses an interesting question today – Why do regulators still care about payola? – but then answers it in a sadly wrong-headed way.

“Sure, the new outlets for music could attract payola-like abuses, but their ranks are so large and growing that there’s no way to buy off all of them. And they’re already having their effect, as seen in the dwindling market share for the artists who hog the airwaves. If commercial stations insist on following the money, instead of the shifting tastes of music fans, they’ll lose their audience. That’s the punishment they deserve; it’s up to music fans to mete it out.”


This line of logic is emblematic of media types in the thrall of new technology like iPods, webcasts and satellite radios: They’re fighting for the aspirant rich bourgeoise, while the Feds are suppossed to protect the least of us.

I mean, it’s also probably true that the potholes in the 10 Freeway are less irksome and jarring if you’re driving a $66,000 Cadillac Escalade equipped with Sirius, that’s still no reason not to fix them for those of us who have to drive the lunar-surfaced 10 in an ’91 Honda Civic.

Free radio is free for a reason. The airwaves are ours, not theirs. We agree to listen to their ridiculous diaper commericials and beer jingles; they play music. Anything else is a subversion of that economic compact.

Even if Eliot Spitzer and Kevin Martin are going after Big Radio for headlines and to further their political careers, it’s still a worthwhile effort. If you’re the little guy who can’t even afford an iPod or an XM subscription, the least you can get for your tax dollars is a brief respite from Audioslave.