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101X settles to end FCC payola investigation

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

The owner of Austin radio station 101.5 KROX-FM will pay $12,000 to put an end to a five-year investigation by the Federal Communications Commission.

A complaint filed with the FCC in 2006 accused the station, known on air as 101X, of engaging in a payola scheme that netted one of its hosts "valuable consideration" from a music store, a live music venue, a booking agent and a band manager.

Payola, according to the FCC, occurs when a station or one of its employees fails to report that it has received some form of payment for airing material.

The same complaint also claimed that 101X made it difficult for independent musicians to get airtime.

Emmis Austin Radio Broadcasting Co., the station's owner, believes it did nothing wrong, market manager Scott Gillmore said, but opted to settle to end a costly, time-consuming legal battle.

"We basically consider this to have been a misunderstanding," Gillmore said Monday. "We would never want anything to happen that would even cause the appearance of payola."

In addition to paying $12,000, Emmis will also increase its training for staffers and strengthen its record-keeping procedures.

Indianapolis-based Emmis is Austin's largest radio operator. In addition to KROX-FM, it also owns 93.3/102.7 KGSR-FM, 93.7 KLBJ-FM, 103.5 KBPA-FM, 107.1 KLZT-FM and 590 KLBJ-AM, as well as several HD2 stations.

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987