We’ve written about the FCC rules against broadcasting phone calls without permission of the person at the other end of the line. Specifically, we’ve written about the FCC’s decision that held that these rules prevent the broadcast of people’s voicemail messages without their permission, and about the FCC’s decision to fine a station even though the owners did not know that the station announcer was broadcasting a phone call without permission and was doing so without the knowledge of the station owners. Today, the FCC released another order on this rule, fining a station $12,000 for broadcasting a message left on the private cell phone of a station employee. Even though the caller had called the radio station employee, the FCC found that there was an expectation that the call would not be made public without the specific permission for the broadcast of the recording from the caller. As the station broadcast the call more than once, and the program on which it was broadcast was carried on multiple stations, the fine was increased to $12,000. This decision makes it very clear that a call – incoming, outgoing, from a voicemail or live – should not be broadcast on a station unless the station is certain that the caller knows or should have known that the call will end up on the air.
Another interesting aspect to the case was the fact that the licensee who was fined, a subsidiary of Clear Channel, had sold the station before the fine was levied, and there was apparently no "tolling agreement" required by the Commission by which the seller would waive any rights to contest a fine after the sale. Nevertheless, the former licensee was still held liable for the events that occurred on its watch. This again makes clear, as in another recent case about which we wrote, that the sale of a station does not cut off the Seller’s liability for FCC rule violations that occurred on its watch. So broadcasters have to take care, as the FCC will seek its due for rule violations.