DJ Alan Freed is fired from WABC for the “Payola Scandal”
November 21, 1959: Alan Freed a/k/a “Moon Dog” the WABC AM Radio Disk Jockey, who popularized the term “rock and roll,” is fired from the radio station for allegedly participating in the “Payola Scandal.”
Congressional Investigations of the Payola Scandal began in 1959. DJ Alan Freed and TV host Dick Clark were among several entertainers under investigation by the House Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight. Payola referred to the practice of record promoters paying Disk Jockey’s and/or radio programmers to play their labels songs. The payoff came as cash, or by making arraignments to purchase advertising time in exchange for a song to remain on the station’s playlist. Sometimes performers were forced by their label to play at station sponsored events for little to no money to stay in the station’s good graces.
In the music industry, it is against Federal Law (misdemeanor) to pay or induce airplay on commercial radio by record companies. While a radio station can play a specific song in exchange for payment, it must be disclosed at the time of the broadcasting that it is “sponsored airtime,” and not part of its regular air-play.
The results and byproducts of the investigation included: Disk Jockeys were no longer permitted to make programming decisions. In New York, a Grand Jury indicted eight men including Freed, for receiving $116,580 in illegal gratuities. In December 1962, Freed plead guilty to 29 counts of commercial bribery. He was given a suspended sentence and a $300 fine however, his career never recovered.