Consent Decree and Hefty Fine for Sponsorship ID Rule Violations

Posted on August 31st, 2022 by

On August 5, 2022, the FCC released an order fining a low power television station $60,000 for violations of the sponsorship identification rules.  In addition, the station entered into a consent decree with a five-year compliance plan and reporting obligations.

The station admitted to broadcasting appearances by various legally qualified candidates and spokespersons for commercial entities on what was purportedly a news interview and public affairs program without providing on-air sponsorship identification announcements disclosing that the interviews were paid-for events.  The station was offering “all-in-one” advertising packages that included spots and a personal live interview in the news program.

Section 73.1212(a) of the FCC’s rules requires that “when a broadcast station transmits any matter for which money, service, or other valuable consideration is either directly or indirectly paid or promised to, or charged or accepted by such station, the station, at the time of the broadcast, shall announce: (1) that such matter is sponsored, paid for, or furnished, either in whole or in part, and (2) by whom or on whose behalf such consideration was supplied.”

The FCC’s sponsorship identification rules implement the Communications Act’s requirements and have been around for years.  Of late, the FCC has made compliance with the rule a top priority.  The sizable fine in this case would likely have been higher had the FCC not taken into account the station’s ability to pay.  As it was, the station agreed to pay the fine in 60 installments.

If you’re not certain about your station’s compliance with the rule in certain circumstances, consult legal counsel.