Sony Admits That It Helped Make Radio Suck, and Lied About It

Sony Agrees to Halt Gifts for Airtime – New York Times
Sony Agrees to Halt Gifts for Airtime

By JENNIFER BAYOT

Published: July 25, 2005

Sony BMG Music Entertainment, one of the world’s largest record companies, agreed today to stop providing lavish gifts, free trips and other giveaways in exchange for airtime for its artists on radio stations, under the terms of a settlement with the New York attorney general’s office.

Eliot Spitzer, the New York State Attorney General, announces an agreement to halt pervasive “pay-for-playî practices in the music industry.

The settlement, which includes a $10 million payment to a fund for music education, is the first in a broad investigation by Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general, into incentives that record companies offer to radio stations in hopes of getting airtime that will raise their artists’ profiles, increase a song’s ranking and, of course, drive up sales.

“This agreement is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry,” Mr. Spitzer said in a statement. “Contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees.”

Sony BMG, which represents Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Lopez, among dozens of others, admitted to the misconduct in a statement. “Sony BMG acknowledges that various employees pursued some radio promotion practices on behalf of the company that were wrong and improper, and apologizes for such conduct,” the company said. “SONY BMG looks forward to defining a new, higher standard in radio promotion.”

It also suggested that such practices were common in the industry, even though state and federal laws bar record labels from paying radio stations for air time. “Such direct and indirect forms of what has been described generically as “payola” for spins has continued to be an unfortunately prevalent aspect of radio promotion,” the statement said.

In addition to Sony BMG, a unit of Sony and Bertelsmann, Mr. Spitzer’s office served subpoenas late last year to the Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi Universal; the EMI Group; and the Warner Music Group. The attorney general sought copies of contracts, billing records and internal memos; it also questioned senior executives at Sony.

The attorney general said that the enticements took several forms. Station programmers received bribes like computer laptops and vacation packages, or the label sponsored contests for a station’s listeners. In other cases, Sony BMG paid some of a station’s day-to-day expenses, or it hired middlemen known as independent promoters to make illegal payments to radio stations. Some Sony BMG employees also tried to hide payments to station employees by recording them as prizes to non-existent contest winners, the attorney general said.

Investigators disclosed letters and e-mail messages showing the kinds of payoffs at issue. In a letter dated Feb. 6, 2003, a promotions executive lists songs that the company wants played and payment terms for each such “add” to a station’s playlist. “We will continue to send you a weekly ‘priority’ sheet that will direct you and your staff accordingly,” the executive writes. “An add shall be defined, and payment will only be generated, after a station has spun a song for 56 times in a 4 week period, in the 6 a.m. to 12 midnight daypart.”

In an e-mail sent in January 2003, an irate promotions employee instructs a colleague to withhold a free trip, known as a “flyaway,” from stations that bury Celine Dion’s “I Drove all Night” in its overnight rotation of songs. Written all in capital letters, it read:

“OK, HERE IT IS IN BLACK AND WHITE AND IT’S SERIOUS: IF A RADIO STATION GOT A FLYAWAY TO A CELINE SHOW IN LAS VEGAS FOR THE ADD, AND THEY’RE PLAYING THE SONG ALL IN OVERNIGHTS, THEY ARE NOT GETTING THE FLYAWAY. PLEASE FIX THE OVERNIGHT ROTATIONS IMMEDIATELY.”

Soon after the attorney general’s office began its investigation, Sony BMG started reining in such promotional tactics, and it said today that it would not only stop paying for airplay but would disclose any expensive gifts from now on. The company will hire a compliance officer to monitor its progress and to create a system for detecting abuses.

Ann Chaitovitz, director of sound recordings for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, said in a statement that the federation thanked Mr. Spitzer “for examining this pernicious issue” and that “pay-for-play hurts both recording artists and the public.” She added: “We look forward to his continuing investigation of the other record labels.”

'Enemies of humanity' quote raises Iraq PR questions – Jul 24, 2005

CNN.com – News release quotes from unidentified Iraqis are virtually the same

Sunday, July 24, 2005; Posted: 5:13 p.m. EDT (21:13 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — The U.S. military on Sunday said it was looking into how virtually identical quotations ended up in two of its news releases about different insurgent attacks.

Following a car bombing in Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military issued a statement with a quotation attributed to an unidentified Iraqi that was virtually identical to a quote reacting to an attack on July 13.

After questioning by news media, the military released the statement without the quotation.

Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, spokesman for the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said use of the quote was an “administrative error.” He said the military was looking into the matter.

The car bomb killed 25 people and wounded 33 others near the al-Rashad police station, Baghdad emergency police said. (Full story)

A statement about the attack by Task Force Baghdad 3rd Infantry Division contained a three-sentence quote attributed to an unidentified Iraqi. The statement said the Iraqi called the attackers “enemies of humanity” and vowed to “take the fight to the terrorists.”

The quote was virtually the same as a quote contained in a Task Force Baghdad 3rd Infantry Division statement released after a car bombing on July 13. That attack killed several children.

The statement about the July 13 attack quoted an unidentified Iraqi saying terrorists were attacking “the children.” In Sunday’s quote, an unidentified Iraqi said terrorists were attacking “the ISF” (Iraqi Security Forces).

Following are the two quotes as provided by the U.S. military in news releases:

Sunday’s news release said: “‘The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the ISF and all of Iraq. They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists,’ said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified.”

The July 13 news release said: “‘The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the children and all of Iraq,’ said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified. ‘They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists.’”

CNN’s Cal Perry and Kevin Flower contributed to this report.

Dozens of Chemicals Found in Most Americans' Bodies

July 22, 2005 Los Angeles Times
July 22, 2005

The concentration is especially high in children, a national study says. But experts aren’t sure what the health effects are.

By Marla Cone, Times Staff Writer

In the largest study of chemical exposure ever conducted on human beings, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that most American children and adults were carrying in their bodies dozens of pesticides and toxic compounds used in consumer products, many of them linked to potential health threats.

The report documented bigger doses in children than in adults of many chemicals, including some pyrethroids, which are in virtually every household pesticide, and phthalates, which are found in nail polish and other beauty products as well as in soft plastics.

The CDC’s director, Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, called the national exposure report ó the third in an assessment that is released biennially ó a breakthrough that would help public health officials home in on the most important compounds to which Americans are routinely exposed.

The latest installment, which looked for 148 toxic compounds in the urine and blood of about 2,400 people age 6 and older in 2000 and 2001, is “the largest and most comprehensive report of its kind ever released anywhere by anyone,” Gerberding said. Findings were broken down by age group and race.

At Thursday’s news conference, CDC officials emphasized the good news: Steep declines were found in children’s exposure to lead and secondhand cigarette smoke.

Lead levels in children have dropped significantly over several years, which Gerberding called an “astonishing public health achievement” attributable largely to its removal from gasoline and paint.

About 1.6% of young children tested from 1999 to 2002 had elevated levels of lead, which could lower their intelligence and damage their brains, compared with 88.2% in the late 1970s and 4.4% in the early 1990s.

But the discovery of more than 100 other substances in humans, particularly children, distressed environmental health experts.

“The report in general shows that people ó kids and adults ó are exposed to things that aren’t intended to be in their body,” said Dr. Jerome A. Paulson, an associate professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences who specializes in children’s environmental health. “In and of itself, that is a concern. Whether it’s harmful or not we can’t tell from this particular study.”

The new data in the 475-page report reveal how “we have fouled our own nest,” Paulson said. “We contaminated the environment sufficiently that there are measurable amounts of potentially toxic substances in people ó kids and adults.”

The CDC did not try to gauge the health threat the chemicals might pose. A measurable amount of a compound in a person’s body does not mean it causes disease or other damage, the agency noted.

For many compounds in the report, experts have little information on what amounts may be harmful or what they may do in combination.

“We are really at the beginning of a very complicated journey to understand the thousands of substances we are exposed to,” said Thomas Burke, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The discovery of pyrethroids in most people is especially important, as no one had looked for them in the human body before. Pyrethroids are synthetic versions of natural compounds found in flowers, and they have been considered safer than older pesticides, such as DDT and chlordane, that build up in the environment and have been banned in the United States.

But in high doses, pyrethroids are toxic to the nervous system. They are the second most common class of pesticides that result in poisoning. At low doses, they might alter hormones. The compounds are used in large volumes in farm and household pesticides and are sprayed by public agencies to kill mosquitoes.

Pyrethroids “were a step forward [from DDT and other banned pesticides], but now we’re beginning to understand that while they don’t persist in the environment, many of us are exposed,” Burke said. “We don’t quite know what those levels mean.”

Eleven of 12 phthalates tested were higher in children than adults. All of the phthalates but one are used in fragrances. In animal tests, and in one recent study of human babies, some of the compounds have been shown to alter male reproductive organs or to feminize hormones.

Representatives of the chemical and pesticide industries praised the study, saying that human biomonitoring is the best available tool to measure exposure. They echoed the CDC in saying that discovery of the chemicals in the human body did not automatically mean they posed a threat.

The report demonstrates “that exposure to these man-made and natural substances is extremely low,” said American Chemistry Council spokesman Chris VandenHeuvel.

The CDC’s Gerberding said that “for the vast majority” of the 148 chemicals in the report, “we have no evidence of health effects.”

Many toxicologists and environmental scientists disagree.

Studies of animals, and in some cases people, suggest that most of the compounds can affect the brain, hormones, reproductive system or the immune system, or that they are linked to cancer. “These are some bad actors,” Burke said.

Many of the compounds have not been studied sufficiently to know what happens with chronic exposure to low doses. “No evidence of health effects does not imply that they are not harmful,” Paulson said. “It just means we don’t know one way or another.”

Environmental groups have called for U.S. law to require chemical companies to test industrial compounds more comprehensively, a proposal similar to one that the European Parliament is to debate in the fall.

The evidence that many contaminants amass in children more than in adults could mean that they are exposed to larger amounts ó perhaps from crawling, breathing more rapidly or putting items in their mouths ó or that their bodies are less able to cope with or metabolize them.

In the womb and in the first two years after birth, children undergo extraordinary cell growth, from brain neurons to immune cells, so there are more opportunities for toxic compounds to disrupt the cells, Paulson said. Animal tests show that fetuses and newborns are the most susceptible to harm from many chemicals.

In the CDC study, one of every 18 women of childbearing age, or 5.7%, had mercury that exceeded the level that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deemed safe to a developing fetus.

Tests on schoolchildren show that mercury exposure in the womb can lower IQs, with memory and vocabulary particularly impaired.

The CDC plans to expand the national chemical report to more than 300 compounds in two years and about 500 in four years. An estimated 80,000 chemicals are in commercial use today.

Hendersons Relish …the taste of Sheffield!

“What is Henderson’s Relish?

“Though similar in appearance to a Worcestershire sauce, Hendersonís Relish is unique in its aroma and flavour. It can be used both as a sauce on meat dishes, pies, fish, chips and as a cooking ingredient in casseroles, pasta dishes, soups and marinades.†

“Unlike other comparable sauces, the relish is also suitable for vegetarians.

“The special mix of spices are blended together with our secret recipe and a special sauce is made. The way in which the sauce is blended is still a closely guarded secret and at least once a year a rumour sweeps Sheffield that the owner is retiring and taking the secret recipe with him. Upon hearing this supermarket shelves are cleared as people stock up on their favourite sauce. Fortunately all these rumours are unfounded and Hendersons is going as strong as ever.”