Noncommercial Station Enters Consent Decree for Airing Commercials and Not Identifying Program Sponsors

Posted on April 30th, 2024 by

A New York noncommercial radio station facing a petition to deny, several informal objections to its license renewal application, and the FCC’s inquiries and investigation of alleged rule violations has entered into a consent decree agreeing to pay a fine of $25,000, implement a comprehensive compliance plan with annual compliance reports, and receive a short-term, 2-year license renewal.

The petitions and objections raised issues with three programs repeatedly aired by the station that contained comparative/qualitative descriptions, price information, calls to action, and inducements to buy products or services provided by program guests. Either the program host or guest created the products and services being promoted, which were related to the topics of their program discussions and interviews.  The FCC cited to of the programs filed in the renewal application proceedings. In addition to violating the FCC’s non-commercialization policies for NCE broadcasters, the FCC concluded that the station failed to properly identify programming sponsors under the Sponsorship ID rule.

While it has become more infrequent for the FCC to issue outright notices of apparent liability to NCE stations for violations of these rules, this case demonstrates the potential risks for not policing program content.  Noncommercial broadcasters cannot air commercial advertising, defined as material broadcast for any remuneration intended to promote any service, facility, or product of for-profit entities.  Contributors of funds to noncommercial stations can receive on-air acknowledgments that identify, but do not promote, the contributor’s products, services, or businesses.  Promotion occurs when material includes comparative or qualitative descriptions, price information, calls to action, or inducements to buy, sell, rent or lease.