Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) yesterday announced the launching of a Senate investigation into the alleged use of payola in the recording industry, declaring that the payment of bribes to have records played on the radio is now "worse than ever."

"We are not out to put anybody in jail," said Gore, alluding to the current federal grand jury investigation into payola allegations, "but rather to assess whether or not the laws are working."

At a Capitol Hill press conference, Gore stressed the Senate Permanent Subcommittee of the Governmental Affairs Committee will look into "all sides of this surprisingly complex subject."

Gore headed a previous investigation into the practice three years ago as a member of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, following private concerns voiced to him by officials within the recording industry.

But the investigation was unsuccessful, he said, because of a general "conspiracy of silence" within the industry, as well as "an incredible reluctance" on the part of some of those officials to testify. But with the widespread media reports of late on the subject, the recent breaking of ties between many record companies with independent promoters, as well as the grand jury investigation, Gore said the officials are now "more willing to speak up . . ."