On Friday, the FCC’s Audio Division released its first decision in the current renewal cycle addressing the issue of incomplete public inspection files and missing Quarterly Issues Programs List, proposing to fine an AM station in Virginia $15,000 for apparently not having any Issues Programs Lists in its online public inspection file for the entire renewal term.  The decision, found here, should serve as a warning to broadcasters to make sure that their online files are complete and up to date.

The facts of this case, summarized below, seem particularly egregious as the station had the same issue of missing issues programs lists when its last renewal was filed 8 years ago.  Nevertheless, we can expect that this won’t be the last fine we will see for stations that have incomplete public files.  The FCC has been sending out warnings about incomplete online files for the last year, and we’ve been warning (see, for instance, here and here) that, with all public inspection files now being available online, the FCC will likely be issuing fines during this renewal cycle if documents are missing from the file.  The Quarterly Issues Programs lists are seen by the FCC as being particularly important as they are the only official documents demonstrating the public interest programming that was actually broadcast by a station (see our article here). 
Continue Reading $15,000 Fine and Short-Term License Renewal Proposed for Radio Station Missing Issues Programs Lists in Its Online Public Inspection File

In a decision released this week, the FCC fined a Chicago radio station $44,000 for omitting sponsorship identification announcements on 11 on-air spots promoting the positions of the sponsoring organization on certain issues facing the local community.  Finding that the purpose of the sponsorship identification rules (Section 317 of the Communications Act and Section 73.1212 of the FCC rules) is to allow the station’s listeners to know who is trying to convince them of whatever is being broadcast, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau decided that each of the violations would be assessed the base fine of $4000 – meaning that there was a total fine of $44,000.

We wrote about the original Notice of Violation in this case two years ago, here.  In a two month period, the station had run a series of paid announcements on behalf of an organization called Workers Independent News (“WIN”), addressing social and political issues.  The announcements consisted of 45 90-second spots, 27 15-second promotional announcements, two two-hour programs, and one one-hour program.  All but 11 of these announcements had proper sponsorship identifications.  Even those 11 announcements identified the announcer as being with WIN, but they did not specifically say that the 11 spots had been “paid for” or “sponsored by” by the organization.  That alone was enough to prompt the fine.  But $44,000?
Continue Reading $44,000 Fine for 11 Missing Sponsorship IDs for Radio Station 45 Second Spots – Emphasizes Importance of Strict Compliance with All FCC Programming Rules