Articles Posted in Sponsorship ID & Payola/Plugola

Published on:

August 2009
The volatile combination of broadcast employees concerned about their income and job security, and cash-strapped businesses looking for cheap and effective ways to promote themselves in difficult economic times, creates an unusually fertile ground for payola and plugola violations. Complicating matters are state efforts to prohibit “payola” activities that are legal under federal payola law. Even being accused of payola can be devastating to a broadcaster, and stations must be extremely diligent in uncovering and preventing payola and plugola violations.

Payola is the undisclosed acceptance of, or agreement to accept, anything of value in return for on-air promotion of a product or service. It is forbidden by Sections 317 and 507 of the Communications Act of 1934, and by Sections 73.1212 (broadcast) and 76.1615 (cable) of the FCC’s Rules. Its sibling, Plugola, occurs when someone responsible for program selection promotes on-air a venture in which he or she has a financial interest without disclosing that interest to the station licensee and to the public. A payola or plugola violation by an employee usually results in the employer violating the FCC’s sponsorship identification rule as well.

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Published on:

7/16/2009
As the sources of content available to the public proliferate, attracting and retaining an audience grows more challenging. A common strategy is to use provocative or “attention-getting” on-air elements to increase station awareness among media-saturated listeners and viewers. However, stations must be mindful of the numerous legal restrictions on content, particularly given that illegal on-air content can garner fines as high as $325,000 per violation. In addition, certain types of illegal on-air content can subject a broadcaster to civil and criminal liability, as well as loss of its license.

Introduction
Familiarity with the FCC’s rules regarding on-air content is not optional for on-air talent, station programmers or station management. In most cases, editorial judgments made in advance, especially in the case of syndicated or pre-recorded programming, can prevent illegal content from reaching the air. It is therefore important that those involved in airing broadcast programming be up-to-date on the boundary lines that the FCC and the courts have drawn to distinguish legal from illegal on-air content.

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Published on:

4/13/2007
The FCC today released four Orders adopting Consent Decrees with CBS Radio, Citadel Broadcasting Corporation (“Citadel”), Clear Channel Communications, Inc. (“Clear Channel”), and Entercom Communications Corp. (“Entercom”). Pursuant to the Consent Decrees, the broadcasters agreed to pay a combined $12.5 million to close investigations into possible violations of the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules. Specifically, the Consent Decrees resolved allegations that the broadcasters may have accepted cash or other consideration from record labels in exchange for airplay of artists from those labels without disclosing those arrangements, a practice commonly referred to as “payola.”

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Published on:

November 2006
On November 14, 2006, FCC Commissioner Adelstein issued a statement commending The Center for Media Democracy and Free Press for its continued study regarding video news releases (VNRs). The Commission has described VNRs as “essentially prepackaged news stories, that may use actors to play reporters and include suggested scripts to introduce the stories.” This advisory briefly outlines the current law regarding the broadcast of VNRs and alerts broadcasters to the need for caution in this area.

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