FCC Proposes Fine On Noncomm For Airing Commercial Announcements
April 22, 2013 at 12:40 PM (PT)
The FCC has proposed a $3,000 fine on EDUCATIONAL COMMUNITY RADIO, INC. for airing underwriting messages that amounted to commercial announcements on noncommercial Variety WOBO/BATAVIA, OH. The fine did not disqualify the station from its license renewal, however, despite an objection filed by a former officer of the licensee, DONALD F. LITTMAN.
The alleged violations involved an underwriter's announcement promoting a concert with a band "voted CANADA's #1 bluegrass band," another about BURCH SHEET METAL AND BUILDING SUPPLIES offering "custom metal roofing, siding, hardware, trim, insulation, trusses, and perma felt paper," and a third for FEDDERS FEED AND SEED AND PET SUPPLIES saying that the store sells "bulk and bag mulch, peat moss, potting soil, bulk top soil, and decorative borders.... pickup and delivery." LITTMAN also alleged that the station aired vintage cigarette commercials during "old time radio" shows, aired no issue-responsive programming other than PSAs aired overnight, and that the licensee's President GARY STRONG sings with a local band that he promotes on the station, followed by underwriting announcements for the band.
The Commission said that STRONG's promotion of his band was not payola because the station disclosed the band's underwriting status on the air, that the lack of issue-responsive programming was not shown over a sufficient period to warrant action (although it admonished the licensee for relying entirely on PSAs), that the "CANADA's #1 bluegrass band" was impermissibly promotional, and that the "menu" listings of services in the other announcements were also a violation. Finally, the Commission said that the old-time radio cigarette commercials were a matter not for the FCC but for the Department of Justice to determine whether the airing without renumeration would violate the law.