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Infinity Tightens Pitch Rules

Times Staff Writer

Infinity Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday banned the independent promotion of songs at all of its radio stations, marking the broadcast industry’s first reaction to a probe of promotion practices by New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer’s office, sources said.

The New York-based radio giant, a unit of Viacom Inc., issued an internal memo prohibiting all forms of independent promotion at 180 stations in 22 of the nation’s largest markets, including KROQ-FM in Los Angeles, sources said.

Infinity executives first discussed the new promotion edict in an internal conference call on Tuesday, followed by an e-mail memo on Wednesday. Sources said the policy barred station managers from associating with independent promoters, trade tip-sheet publications or promotion companies that sponsor contests in which program directors could win prizes.

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Representatives for Infinity could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The move comes just six weeks after Spitzer’s office served subpoenas on Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, EMI Group and Warner Music Group, seeking copies of all e-mails, letters, contracts and other correspondence between the firms and the industry’s leading independent promoters.

It is against the law for broadcasters to accept money or anything of value in exchange for playing songs on the radio without disclosing the practice to listeners.

Independent promoters pay radio stations annual fees that they say are not tied to airplay of specific songs. But critics say the payments represent an end run around the law and continue to influence what songs are played.

In 2003, The Times reported that Michele Clark, an independent promoter, paid thousands of dollars to Portland, Ore.'s KINK-FM, which is owned by Infinity Broadcasting, after the station added songs that she had pitched.

Internal documents indicated that Clark kept detailed logs listing the date a station aired a song, followed by a dollar amount she collected from the artist’s label.

Like a bank account, there were debits and credits, deposits and withdrawals. The promoter made “deposits” when the right songs were played and “withdrawals” for the station to receive payment in the form of cash, travel and tickets to events.

Promoters say that many stations across the nation still use this type of payment system.


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