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?