FCC Enforcement of Sponsorship Identification Rules

In a recent decision, the FCC’s Media Bureau entered into a consent decree with the licensee of a low-power TV station that violated the sponsorship identification rules. The station paid a civil penalty of $60,000 and agreed to complete a comprehensive compliance plan. The violation occurred because the station featured interviews with political candidates and commercial spokespeople who paid for the interviews on a public affairs program but failed to air any announcement disclosing that the guests had paid to be included. The FCC concluded that the licensee misled the public by conflating paid content with news. The FCC found the failure to provide sponsorship identification for the paid appearances by candidates particularly egregious concluding that it had the potential to undermine the public’s confidence in the integrity of legitimate political discourse.

This decision serves as a reminder of the FCC’s enforcement focus on allegations that a station has violated the sponsorship identification rules.

As a reminder, the Communications Act and the FCC's rules require broadcasters to disclose on-air the sponsors of any paid programming. Broadcast licensees must also exercise reasonable diligence to determine the entity that is paying for programming.

If you have questions about FCC rule enforcement, or compliance with the FCC’s broadcast and media rules in general, please contact an attorney in our Media practice group.

Categories: Media