Beyonce Knowles, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez's music company Sony BMG has agreed to pay $10 million (GBP5.7 million) to settle probe into the illegal practice of paying radio stations to air its stars' songs.

The settlement was announced today (25JUL05) following a "pay for play" investigation spearheaded by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer which discovered the illegal practice was rife.

The probe uncovered massive corruption and even reported cases of Sony BMG buying holidays for radio employees. Emails between top officials showed that bribes were accepted and commonplace. A 1960 US law makes it illegal for record companies to offer radio stations financial incentives.

Mr Spitzer says, "Air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs. This agreement is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry.

"Instead of airing music based on the quality, artistic competition, aesthetic judgments or other judgments, radio stations are airing music because they are paid to do so in a way that hasn't been disclosed to the public."

Sony spokesman John McKay condemned the practice as "wrong and improper".

The money will go to a New York state not-for-profit entities involved in music education and appreciation.

Sony BMG owns over 20 record labels, including J Records, Jive, Arista, Epic and RCA Records.

25/07/2005 09:17