Payola En Español

Univision Music is being sued for more than $10 million by Latino label Platino Records, which charges the company with attempting to ruin the firm for refusing what allegedly amounts to a payola scheme.

The suit, filed August 7th in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claims Univision Music execs drove down Platino’s sales after owner Alberto Mitchell refused to participate in a plan to bribe execs at several Spanish-language radio stations in Los Angeles to get better play for songs by Univision’s top artists, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The suit marks the second in recent months to make such an allegation against Univision Music brass, and comes as parent Univision Communications is reportedly trying to sell off the division that commands about 37 percent of the Latino market.

Another lawsuit was filed in November in L.A. by Daniel Mireles, a former VP of promotions for Univision’s Fonovisa Records. In it, Mireles alleges he was wrongfully terminated in 2006 for refusing to offer radio station execs, including a top local programmer, "$10,000 a month, in cash, for eight Univision records … to be played three times per day," the Times quoted the suit as saying.

In addition, according to the paper, Mireles charges that in early 2006 a Las Vegas middleman was given as much as $500,000 to pay off radio executives. When he tried to alert the head of Univision Music about the scheme, the exec "was either busy or could not see him."

The Platino suit mines similar territory. The suit reportedly claims that a Univision Music executive asked Mitchell to draw up a list of radio program directors to approach.

"Mr. Mitchell became enraged and demanded to speak to the president of defendant Univision Music to complain about such behavior," the suit said, according to the Times. "Management of defendant Univision Music apologized to Mr. Mitchell at that time."

However, after Mitchell testified in the Mireles case, Univision stopped promoting Platino’s bands, resulting in plummeting sales for the label, which has a distribution deal with Univision Music.

"They effectively reduced the distribution of his records," Platino’s attorney, Jay Coggan, told the Times.

"Their sales dropped precipitously, more than 50 percent and as much as 80 percent in some months. There are no market conditions or business justifications for such a steep drop in sales."