The FCC today issued two fines to stations who violated the FCC’s rule against airing phone calls for which permission had not been received before the call was either taped for broadcast or aired live. We’ve written about other fines for the violation of this rule, Section 73.1206, many times (see here, here, and here). What was interesting about the new cases is that they made clear that a station needs to get permission to record or broadcast the phone call even before the person at the other end of the line says "hello."
In one case, the station was broadcasting using a tape delay. The station placed a call to a local restaurant and, when the person at the other end of the line said hello, the station DJ informed the restaurant employee that he was being broadcast and asked if that was OK. The person responded "yep." But he changed his mind later in the call. The station claimed that, had the person not given permission, the tape delay would have allowed the call to be dumped but, as permission was given, the station continued to run with the conversation on the air. The FCC found that insufficient, as permission had not been received prior to the person saying hello. The second case was much more straightforward – a wake up call by the station to a randomly selected phone number. While the station immediately informed the person who answered the phone that the call was on the air – that did not happen until the recipient of the call had already said hello. In the first case, the fine was $6000 – in the second, $3200.
These cases demonstrate that the FCC takes this rule very seriously, and stations need to be very careful to avoid getting into trouble when recording a call for broadcast. Under these rules, even before the tape starts running – get permission to record the call for later broadcast. Don’t start recording first. That’s the rule.