FCC Issues a Consent Decree and Fine for Station’s Improper “Contests” and Lack of Tower Lighting

Stations are reminded that the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau remains active on a variety of enforcement related issues.  It has just required a station to enter into a consent decree and pay $125,000 in fines.  There were two fundamental issues:

Tower Lighting

The FCC was very concerned over the station’s lack of inspection and failure to properly ensure the tower was lighted.  According to the FCC:

“[The broadcaster] admitted and provided evidence that it: (a) failed, over a period of 453 days, to monitor the state of the lighting system for the Antenna Structure, as required under section 17.47(a) of the Part 17 Rules; (b) failed to immediately notify the FAA of a lighting extinguishment on the Antenna Structure, as required under section 17.48 of the Part 17 Rules; and (c) failed to notify the Commission of its acquisition in 2012 of the Antenna Structure, as required under section 17.57 of the Part 17 Rules.”

Stations are reminded to make sure to inspect their towers.

Improper Contests

The FCC was concerned with two contests conducted by the stations. The first contest involved pre-recording participants and replaying them as if they were live.

“[T]he IHD Complaints also alleged that [Station] personnel recorded fake telephone calls with individuals posing as contest participants and aired the previously recorded programming during the voice-tracked afternoon show. …. Although queried repeatedly on these matters, [the station] would neither confirm nor deny the veracity of the allegations made in the IHD Complaints and maintains that it has no information “in its possession, custody, control, or knowledge” indicating that the Station broadcast the pre-recorded programming identified in the IHD Complaints. ….[The Station] has not provided any evidence to rebut the accounts given by the complainant, whose credibility the Bureau has no independent reason to doubt or question.”

The second complaint involved continuing a contest, even though there was already a winner.

“The… contest was conducted as though it were a scavenger hunt. The IHD Complaints allege that the Station breached its obligation to conduct the contest fairly when a female listener solved the puzzle earlier than anticipated, thereby circumventing the Station’s desired goal of enhancing its broadcast listenership through competition. To resolve the dilemma, the Station staff allegedly had both her and her boyfriend sign nondisclosure agreements and fraudulently continue the contest for the benefit of unwitting listeners, while secretly arranging for the first listener to ultimately win the contest.”

Bottom line, the Enforcement Bureau of the FCC is monitoring its rules carefully. So if you are conducting contests make sure they comply with the FCC’s rules.

To see a copy of the FCC’s decisions click HERE.


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