FCC privacy regulation

In a Consent Decree released the day after Thanksgiving, the FCC agreed to accept a payment of a $35,000 penalty from a former television licensee for recording two telephone conversations for inclusion in a newscast, where the station called an outside party and recorded those conversations for inclusion in the newscast – before getting permission to do the recording.  The licensee also apparently did not fully respond to FCC inquiries about the facts of the case, leading to the $35,000 fine.  The FCC noted that the licensee had already sold the station, and was holding this money in a post-closing escrow account to be used to satisfy any fines that might arise from this conduct.

The decision is significant for several reasons.  First, it is couched in terms of privacy regulation, with a discussion of the importance of privacy regulation to the FCC in the opening paragraph (see the Public Notice that accompanied the release of the Consent Decree).  Recently, the FCC issued huge fines to independent telephone companies for not properly securing customer information – indicating a new emphasis on privacy regulation by the FCC.  Couching Friday’s consent decree in those terms indicates that privacy issues are now a high priority for the FCC.  As we have written before, privacy is a subject of interest to many other government agencies, and the recent interest of the FCC in this issue promises one more place where businesses can look for trouble should they respect the privacy of those with whom they interact, or should they not secure private information about their customers.
Continue Reading $35,000 FCC Fine for TV Station that Tapes Telephone Conversations for News Broadcast Without Prior Permission