Last week, the FCC announced a Consent Decree with a Florida broadcaster, with the broadcaster admitting violations of several FCC rules and agreeing to pay a $125,000 fine and enter into a consent decree to ensure future compliance. The violations addressed in the decree include (i) the failure to monitor tower lights and report that they had been out for significant periods of time, (ii) the failure to update the Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) of the tower to reflect that the broadcaster was the owner, (iii) not following the announced rules in conducting certain contests, and (iv) broadcasting seemingly live content that was in fact prerecorded, without labeling the programming as having been prerecorded. While the details of the violations are provided in only summary fashion, these violations all serve as a reminder to broadcasters to watch their compliance – and also highlight the apparent interest of the FCC in enforcing the rule on seemingly live but prerecorded content, a rule rarely if ever enforced until this year.
Looking at the contest violations first, the Consent Decree gives a general description of the contests in question in a footnote. One contest was apparently a scavenger hunt. The station had intended for the contest to run for an extended period, but a listener found the prize soon after the on-air promotion began. To prolong the on-air suspense, the station agreed with that listener to not reveal that she had won. The station continued to promote and seemingly conduct the contest on the air for some time, until finally awarding the prize to the original winner. In another contest, the station gave prizes to people who called in at designated times during the day. According to the allegations in the Consent Decree, fake call-ins were recorded by the station to be broadcast during times when there were no live DJs. As we have written before (see our articles here and here), the FCC requires that stations conduct on-air contests substantially in the manner set out in the announced rules for that contest – and the broadcasts about the contest cannot be materially misleading. The FCC concluded that these contests did not meet that standard, and also found another problem with those prerecorded call-ins to the station.
Continue Reading $125,000 FCC Penalty to Broadcaster for Tower Structure and Contest Rule Violations – Including Violation of Rule Against Broadcasting Seemingly Live Recorded Programming Without Informing Listeners