FCC Chairman Orders Payola Probes

WASHINGTON, D.C. Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell today ordered investigations of potential violations of the federal payola and sponsorship laws.

In a statement, Powell said, “I have instructed the enforcement bureau to open two investigations. One into issues regarding commentator Armstrong Williams; and the other into issues regarding station WKSE-FM, Niagra Falls, N.Y.”

A top regulator on Thursday had called for a federal investigation into whether Williams violated payola laws by appearing on TV shows after accepting money from the Bush administration [Adweek Online, Jan. 13].

The call by Jonathan Adelstein, a Democratic member of the Republican-dominated FCC, came after the disclosure that Williams received $240,000 from the Department of Education in return for promoting Bush administration education policies.

The FCC has received “numerous complaints,” Adelstein said. Adelstein had said the law requires disclosure of payments made in return for programming.

—with Todd Shields

This story updates an item posted on Jan. 13 with the news that Powell has ordered investigations.

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.