broadcast of phone calls

Two big fines for the broadcast of telephone conversations without first getting consent of the person at the other end of the phone were released by the FCC today, and each raises a number of interesting issues. Section 73.1206 of the FCC’s rules prohibits the broadcast, or recording for purposes of broadcast, of telephone calls without first getting the consent of the person on the other end of the phone. In the first case released this week, a broadcaster was fined $25,000 for the broadcast of two phone calls on two commonly-owned stations. In the second case, the same broadcaster was fined $16,000 for a violation of the rule at a different station. These cases are very interesting in that they address and reject many defenses to the fines that were raised by the broadcaster.

The $25,000 fine came in the follow up to a Notice of Apparent Liability which we wrote about here. In this case, a station was accused of airing two calls in a program called “You Fell For It.” A complaint alleged that the station called individuals and put them on the air without notice. The licensee first attempted to defend against the claim on the grounds that the person who complained was not one of the people who was called and put on the air without consent. The FCC found that this was not necessary – any listener to the station could complain about a violation of the rules. The FCC found that this rule is not one where the only complaint can come from the individual harmed by being put on the air – though the FCC does not present any policy basis of why the rule should be enforced if the individuals who are apparently being protected (individuals who want to preserve their privacy by not going on the air) do not complain about the station’s conduct.

Continue Reading FCC Fines of $25,000 and $16,000 for Airing Phone Calls Without Prior Consent

Watch what your employees are up to. That’s the message of a recent decision by the FCC, fining a broadcaster $4000 for airing a telephone call that was taped and broadcast without the consent of the caller. In the case released earlier this week, the licensee asked for forgiveness based on the fact that the employee had already left the employment of the station, and because the licensee did not know of the conduct, could not even confirm that it occurred, and did not condone that conduct if it had in fact taken place. Essentially, the FCC found that the evidence provided by the caller who complained to the FCC was so convincing that the Commission could conclude that the call had in fact been aired without the caller’s consent even though the licensee could not confirm it, and the licensee was responsible for the actions of its employees. This sends the clear message to licensees that they must carefully supervise their employees, and think twice about putting that “wild and crazy” disc jockey on the air if the licensee thinks that he won’t be restrained by the Commission’s rules.

This case is another example of the FCC’s rules against airing phone calls without the consent of the caller (or taping those calls for airing without consent), except in the limited circumstances where a caller should know from the context of the program that, by calling the station, he will be put on the air. For instance, if the caller calls on a call-in line to an on-air show where the stations employees are regularly putting callers on the air, then the station should not have problems under the rules. But broadcasters are safest if they are cautious with such phone calls – warning callers with a taped or live message that there call may be taped or put on the air before the taping or airing occurs

Continue Reading Fine for Airing Telephone Call Without Permission – Unauthorized Employee No Excuse