Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Payola

From USA Today:

\President Bush is an eloquent advocate of his 2001 education overhaul known as the No Child Left Behind Act. He calls it the “most dramatic reform in public education in a generation” and a powerful remedy for “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

But lately his administration apparently has concluded that the law needs a harder sell based on deceptive practices. Last week, USA TODAY disclosed that the Department of Education had paid conservative pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to tout the measure on his syndicated talk show and to periodically interview Education Secretary Rod Paige.\

While I guess it should come as no surprise that conservative commentators are bought and paid for, this is still troubling.

In the radio industry this is known as “\Payola”, which is defined as “\The paying of cash or gifts in exchange for airplay.” A Payola scandal erupted in the late 50′s and early 60′s, when Disk Jockey Alan Freed was convicted of accepting bribes to play specific music. Congress later passed the anti-payola statute, under which payola became a misdemeanor, penalized by up to $10,000 in fines and one year in prison. Since then the anti-payola statutes have been applied in a much broader context, including hidden marketing in computer programs, and so forth.

The FCC is quite clear that payola is not restricted to payment to play music. For details of the law, reference sections 317 and 507 of the Communications act.

Is there a reason this case of payola is not being investigated as a federal crime? Should not the people responsible for paying hidden money for airplay also be indicted?

I’m sure if this were a liberal commentator receiving money from the DNC, for example, there would be screams of indignation and calls for an investigation. Somehow I doubt that will happen in this case, though.

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