Radio, record labels
The three-year criminal investigation into a pay-for-play scandal at Univison Communications in which Latin-music executives were said to have bribed radio station managers with briefcases stuffed with cash has ended after Univision agreed to pay $1 million in penalties to federal authorities. Somewhat bizarrely, in many cases the bribes were from Univision’s labels to executives at Univision’s radio stations.
As part of an agreement with the US Justice Department the Spanish-language media giant Univision pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. During the four-year scheme, executives and music promoters at the now-defunct Univision Music Group paid thousands of dollars to radio station programmers in exchange for increased radio air time for Univision’s songs. The LA Times report that in one instance, a Los Angeles-based Univision executive in February 2006 sent a Federal Express package that contained $157,800 to a New York radio station programmer, according. Program managers in California and Texas also received bribes. Univision executives and the record promoters then concocted phony contract invoices and payments to hide the true purpose of the payments, documents filed by the U.S. Justice Department said, The cash payments violate federal laws because they were made without the stations disclosing to listeners that such payments had been received with Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer saying “Listeners have a right to know if someone has paid for increased air time or promotions”. Univision agreed to pay a $500,000 fine to the Justice Department and another $500,000 to the Treasury Department as part of a consent decree with the Federal Communications Commission, which was also investigating the scandal. The scandals within Univision Music came to light nearly four years ago when a former Fonovisa promotions executive, Daniel Mireles, filed a lawsuit that alleged that he was fired from the company when he refused to offer bribes to radio station executives.
The Univision radio company also had to agree to sign up to a code of conduct regarding accepting gifts and prizes off music companies, similar to those instigated during the last major American payola crack down, instigated by then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.