Underwriting Fines

In January and February 2009, the FCC issued Notices of Apparent Liability to five licensees and entered into a Consent Decree with one licensee for violation of its rules regarding underwriting announcements on non-commercial broadcast stations. Under the FCC's rules, non-commercial broadcast stations are prohibited from airing underwriting announcements that constitute advertisements benefiting for-profit entities. Station contributors may receive on-air acknowledgement of their support for "identification purposes only." The FCC determined that the underwriting announcements at issue went beyond identification and constituted prohibited advertisements because they invited and induced patronage, used qualitative language and favorably distinguished various businesses. The assessed fines ranged from $2,500 to $7,500. The Notices and Consent Decree are available at the Enforcement Bureau's website here.

Broadcast of Telephone Conversations

In February 2009, the FCC issued a $3,200 Forfeiture Order to the licensee of a West Virginia station and a $6,000 Notice of Apparent Liability to the licensee of a Michigan station for willfully violating rules regarding broadcasting or recording live telephone conversations without prior notice to the called party. Under the FCC's rules, a station must inform call recipients of its intention to broadcast a telephone conversation before either broadcasting or recording the phone call. The West Virginia station admitted that, as part of a segment titled "Wake Your Lazy Carcass Up," its morning show host would routinely call random numbers and notify the people who answered that they were live on-the-air after the broadcast began. In the Notice of Apparent Liability issued to the Michigan station, the FCC found that a 10-second delay system also violated the rules. The delay system allowed the station to initiate a phone call and either dump the conversation if the call recipient did not give consent to air the call, or proceed with broadcast of the call on a 10-second delay if the caller consented. The FCC found that the delay system constituted a recording, albeit a temporary recording, of a phone conversation without first informing called parties of the possible broadcast of the call. The Forfeiture Order is available here and the Notice of Apparent Liability is available here.