A Canadian radio station has apparently pulled off an amazing stunt that would have prompted an FCC fine if it had been done by a US radio station – calling Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and engaging her in an on-air conversation under the premise that she was talking to French President Nicholas Sarkozy. A recording of the purported conversation can be found here. Had this been done in the US, the radio station would have been fined by the FCC as, under US law, you cannot air a telephone conversation on a broadcast station without first getting the permission of the person at the other end of the line – even if the person just says "hello" before being informed that they are on the air, and even if they are a public official.
The FCC rules were made clear in a recent decision of the FCC, fining a station $4000 for failing to inform two people who worked for a local airport that they were on the air when a station called to ask about certain policies concerning taxis at the airport. The station argued that the people being interviewed were public officials and that the conversation was newsworthy, but the FCC denied that argument finding that there was no exception in the required notice provisions of Section 73.1206 of the FCC rules for conversations with public officials. No matter who you are calling, they must give permission before their voice is placed on the air. The Commission also indicated that even putting the receptionist on the air when she said "hello" and said that she would connect the call to the person that the station’s on-air host was trying to reach would have been a violation had the receptionist complained and confirmed that no consent had been given to the airing of her voice. Thus, the FCC rules are clear – you must get permission to air a call before the person at the other end of the line even says hello. Thus, surprise calls are out in the US, so stations can’t have as much fun or break news in the way that this Canadian station did.