WASHINGTON (AP) - Univision Communications Inc. has agreed to pay $1 million to settle allegations that the company’s radio stations and its employees accepted secret cash payments to give more frequent airplay to artists with a former Univision recording label.
The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department announced separate settlements of the “payola” _ or pay-for-play _ charges with the Spanish-language media company late Monday.
The agencies had charged that from 2002 to 2006, Univision Music, a Spanish-language recording label, bribed program managers at stations owned by Univision Radio to play certain Spanish-language artists without disclosing those payments to the public _ violating federal law and FCC rules.
The government said program managers at Univision radio stations in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif., submitted fake invoices to Univision Music for services that were never rendered. Univision Music then paid then invoices, and the program managers pocketed the payments, which ranged from $1,000 to $10,000.
The scheme ended in September 2006, the government said.
Univision sold the recording label to Universal Music Group in early 2008. The label had been part of Univision Services Inc.
Under the agreement with the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Univision Services Inc. pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and agreed to pay a fine of $500,000.
Univision Radio also agreed to pay a $500,000 fine under a parallel settlement with the FCC. The settlement also limits the value of concert tickets and other items that Univision’s radio stations and employees can accept from recording labels.
In a statement, Univision said that the payola scheme involved “an isolated group of employees” who acted without the knowledge of anyone outside of the recording label. The company had no comment on Univision Radio’s involvement.
Universal Media Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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