Did you know that the FCC has a rule that requires that a broadcaster notify its audience that a program has been pre-recorded when the program “creates the impression” that it is live? Probably many broadcasters had forgotten about that rule (if they ever knew it existed). This week the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau entered into a Consent Decree with Salem Media Group, in which Salem agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty and set up a monitoring and compliance plan for 3 years, after admitting that it violated this FCC rule. The Enforcement Bureau specifically states that the action “will send a signal to the industry that the Commission remains vigilant in its duty to ensure that licensees adhere to the live broadcasting rule.” Consider yourself warned!
Section 73.1208 of the FCC’s rules requires broadcast stations to disclose to their audience that program material is prerecorded when “time is of special significance, or . . . [when] an affirmative attempt is made to create the impression that [the program material] is occurring simultaneously with the broadcast.” The program that led to the Enforcement Bureau action was called HealthLine Live, airing on Saturdays on over 20 Salem stations. The FCC, in its initial investigatory letter to Salem station KRLA(AM), the originating station (a letter available, as of the date of this article in the station’s public file), noted that because the word “Live” was in the title of the program, and because the program featured listener calls, the program gave the impression that it was being broadcast live. Reviewing the transcripts of the program provided by the licensee, it certainly seemed to convey the impression that the program was a live discussion of health issues.