KPWR-FM decided Thursday to inform listeners about its business ties to rap act Shade Sheist -- whose music the station has played more than any other broadcaster in the nation.
The move follows an article this week in The Times disclosing that Sheist's music is produced by a senior executive at KPWR-FM and released by Baby Ree Entertainment, a company financed by Emmis Communications Corp., the Indianapolis-based radio conglomerate that owns KPWR-FM.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting called KPWR's heavy airplay of Sheist's music a "dramatic" conflict of interest -- an allegation the company denied.
On Thursday, Emmis radio President Rick Cummings said the radio chain had no legal obligation to disclose the business arrangement, but decided to begin airing Sheist's music along with an identification tag in an effort to eliminate confusion.
"Our intention here is to go one step further to be above reproach," said Cummings. "We're going to air disclosure, if it makes people feel better. We don't have to. We see this as an extra effort to try to separate church and state for the audience."
Cummings said Emmis had consulted with Federal Communications Commission attorneys about the arrangement and followed their advice before airing Sheist's music. That's why, Cummings said, the company barred executive Damion Young from discussing Sheist's music during KPWR's weekly programming meetings.
Cummings said the only reason KPWR played Sheist's music was because it continued to rate high in listener tests.
"Our job is to get ratings -- and KPWR is No. 1," Cummings said. "You don't get to that place by making programming decisions that don't benefit your audience," Cummings said. "[Sheist's] record is testing this week in the top 10 among our listeners. The audience wants to hear it. That's the only reason Power 106 plays it."