The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been asked to investigate "possible violations of federal laws and regulations that expressly prohibit payola."
The request was detailed in a letter from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Mike O'Rielly, who addressed his concerns to RIAA CEO and chairman Mitch Glazier. O'Rielly cited "recent reports" from the radio industry as having raised concerns regarding possible payola.
"To the extent that payola is currently occurring within the industry, I am writing to ask for your help in ensuring that the practice be discontinued," O'Rielly said. "While some have asserted that current payola restrictions violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Commission is obligated to comply with the governing statute until instructed otherwise by the courts or by Congress."
The letter notes that it's the hope of the FCC that the current cited allegations are simply being overstated, with O'Rielly giving readers a brief synopsis of such practices in the industry in the past ranging from cash payments to radio station employees to the utilization of non-monetary gifts and other bribes.
The letter ends with O'Rielly requesting a reply by the end of the month.
"My primary goal is to get to the bottom of existing industry practices to determine whether the law is being followed or whether any problematic conduct must be addressed," O'Rielly said.
Read the letter in full here.
A Rolling Stone report published in August explored the current state of such alleged practices in the industry, with 30 industry sources contributing commentary.
"The old days of coming in [to a radio station] with a 12-inch [record] full of money [and offering] trips and cocaine are all gone," one source, Blackout: My 40 Years in the Record Business author Paul Porter, said at the time. "Now everything goes to LLCs and cash apps."
A 1960 Congressional investigation into the practice of payola resulted in the Federal Communications Act being updated to require radio to publicly disclose if a song's airplay had been purchased.