Stephanie Himonidis, a popular Hispanic television and radio star known as “Chiquibaby,” alleges in a new lawsuit that she along with her husband Gerardo Lopez were fired by the Spanish Broadcasting System after objecting to an illegal payola scheme.
Himonidis once worked for Univision and had one of the highest-rated radio shows in Los Angeles and served as a celebrity judge on the Spanish-language equivalent of American Idol. According to her complaint, SBS knew Himonidis was in a relationship with Lopez, who worked as a programming manager for their radio stations KLAX-FM and KXOL-FM, and began courting her to poach her from Univision. In April 2014, she accepted an offer to work as a morning radio show host for KLAX. She got more than $200,000 in salary plus hundreds of thousands more in bonuses.
But after being hired, Lopez allegedly discovered the payola scheme, referring to the federally prohibited practice of secret cash payments from record companies in exchange for broadcasting of certain music.
“Defendant SBS demanded that Mr. Lopez engage in an illegal payola scheme by selling ‘music spots’ to musicians who wanted SBS to play thir music on the air,” states the lawsuit. “SBS executives instructed Mr. Lopez that part of his job duties were to sell ‘music spots,’ whereby musicians would buy an on-air announcement or advertisement promoting one of their songs or albums. No such ‘announcement’ or ‘advertisement’ was actually made, however. SBS simply played the song along with its other music programming as if they were one and the same.”
The lawsuit further alleges that SBS demanded $5,000 from musicians for the playing of a song, and that if the musicians refused, their music wouldn’t be played. Lopez was allegedly required to collect at least five “fees” per month, per station.
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