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FCC sets records with fines issued to non-commercial and commercial stations alike

Earlier this year TAB warned member stations that the FCC is still very much in the business of conducting field investigations and fining stations.  We cited several recent examples of the FCC issuing forfeitures to Texas stations for a host of station operational issues.  Apparently, the FCC is not shying away from fining stations for content of broadcasts either.  In fact, recent fines show the FCC has much concern for who is paying for broadcasts and has issued commercial and non-commercial stations alike with record-setting fines.

In December, the FCC fined Sinclair stations more than $13 million for failing to make sponsorship disclosures of programming that were part of news programming.  It was the largest fine the FCC has ever issued for a sponsorship identification rules violation.

This month brings word that the FCC imposed an historic $115,000 fine, the largest ever, for violations of its underwriting rules by a non-commercial broadcaster.  Despite a recent trend under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai toward deregulating some of the more onerous FCC rules affecting the broadcast industry, the commission has not shown any disinterest in enforcing regulations that are still on the books.  Recent FCC actions speak for themselves and, increasingly, FCC staff don’t even have to leave the comfort of the office to see whether a station is in compliance with agency rules as stations’ public files move online to the FCC’s own website.

March 1 deadline for Radio
Radio stations in markets 51+ comprise the last group of broadcast stations required to migrate their paper public files to the FCC’s website, and GMs are encouraged to get started now if they haven’t already.

Moving Your Public File Online

Broadcasters should take note that while the industry welcomes the current FCC’s deregulatory moves, the rules that remain on the books still have plenty of teeth, and the FCC is not shy about using them.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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