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Salem Stations Fined $50,000 for Violation of Obscure FCC Pre-Recorded Programming Rule

Salem Media Group has entered into a $50,000 consent decree with the FCC after it admitted that it failed to tell station audiences that a program that seemed “live” was actually pre-recorded.

Salem also agreed to set up a three-year monitoring and compliance plan in response to the FCC’s inquiry involving KRLA-AM in Glendale, CA.

Attorney David Oxenford of TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer said the FCC began its investigation after a listener complained that a KRLA program could not be live “as the host had died before the program was broadcast.”

The program, HealthLine Live, aired on Saturdays on more than 20 Salem stations across the country.

In a Jan. 30 blog post Oxenford said an FCC investigatory letter contained in the KRLA Public File noted “that because the word ‘Live’ was in the title of the program, and because the program featured listener calls, the program gave the impression that it was being broadcast live.”

In its consent decree, the FCC said it has a longstanding goal of protecting consumers by ensuring the public knows when certain program material is “live”, rather than taped, filmed, or recorded, and that “doing otherwise may mislead the public.” 

The FCC said the decision in this case “will send a signal to the industry that the commission remains vigilant in its duty to ensure that licensees adhere to the live broadcasting rule.”

“With the warning provided by this case, broadcasters need to make sure to review all of their programming to be sure that they are not airing programs, or segments of programs (including any network programs), that appear to be live but are in fact not live, without providing notice to their listeners or viewers,” Oxenford cautioned.

He has written more extensively about this case in his recent blog post.
View blog post

Among Oxenford’s suggestions:

  • Don’t re-run a talk show when the host is on vacation without mentioning that the program was recorded at an earlier date. 
  • Don’t include pre-taped phone calls in a program without providing notice that the calls have been prerecorded. 
  • If you include some live and some prerecorded calls in a program, disclose at the beginning of the program that portions of the program have been prerecorded. 

“With the explicit warning that the FCC has provided in this consent decree, broadcasters need to be vigilant to avoid problems that can result in a costly lesson,” Oxenford said.

Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944, for assistance.

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