With April Fools’ Day only a few days away, we need to play our role as attorneys and discount site viagra ruin the fun by repeating our annual reminder that broadcasters need to be careful with any on-air pranks, jokes or other bits prepared especially for the day. While a little fun is OK, remember that the FCC does have a rule against on-air hoaxes. While issues under this rule can arise at any time, broadcaster’s temptation to go over the line is probably highest on April 1. The FCC’s rule against broadcast hoaxes, Section 73.1217 , prevents stations from running any information about a “crime or catastrophe” on the air, if the broadcaster (1) knows the information to be false, (2) it is reasonably foreseeable that the broadcast of the material will cause substantial public harm and (3) public harm is in fact caused. Public harm is defined as “direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.” Air a program that fits within this definition and causes a public harm, and expect to be fined by the FCC. This rule was adopted in the early 1990s after several incidents that were well-publicized in the broadcast industry, including one case where the on-air personalities at a station falsely claimed that they had been taken hostage, and another case where a station broadcast bulletins reporting that a local trash dump had exploded like a volcano and was spewing burning trash. In both cases, first responders were notified about the non-existent emergencies, actually responded to the notices that listeners called in, and were prevented from responding to real emergencies. In light of this sort of incident, the FCC adopted its prohibition against broadcast hoaxes. But, as we’ve reminded broadcasters before, the FCC hoax rule is not the only reason to be wary on April 1. Beyond potential FCC liability, any station activity that could present the risk of bodily harm to a participant also raises the potential for civil liability. In cases where people are injured because first responders had been responding to the hoaxes instead of to real emergencies, stations could have faced potential liability. If some April Fools’ stunt by a station goes wrong, and someone is injured either because police, fire or paramedics are tied up responding to a false alarm, or if someone is hurt rushing to or from the scene of the non-existent calamity that was reported on a radio station, the victim will be looking for a deep pocket to sue – and broadcasters may become the target. Even a case that doesn’t result in liability can be expensive to defend and subject the station to unwanted negative publicity. So, have fun, but be careful how you do it
Archive for the ‘FCC’ Category
FCC Adopts New Rules for Post-Incentive Auction Channel Sharing – Including Opportunities for LPTV and TV Translators to Increase Over-the-Air…
At its meeting yesterday, the FCC adopted new rules for post-auction channel sharing by broadcast television stations (see the public notice here ). Channel sharing was a concept adopted by the FCC in connection with the broadcast incentive auction, to allow two or more stations to share a single 6 MHz TV channel, while retaining separate licenses.
The monthly Ranker for Latin America is a listing of the digital audio stations and networks of its top 25 clients in Latin America, measured by its audience measurement platform
New Wrinkle in Pre-1972 Sound Recording Cases – Georgia Supreme Court Holds that iHeart Streaming Does Not Violate State Criminal Statute
The Georgia Supreme Court this week issued a decision holding that the streaming of pre-1972 sound recordings by iHeart Media does not violate the state’s criminal statutes against the “transfer” of recorded sounds without the permission of the owner of the master recording. While many trade press articles have lumped this decision in with the ongoing litigation about the public performance right in pre-1972 sound recordings, this case is actually dealing with a different issue – and does not even mention the words “public performance” that were the center of debate in the Flo & Eddie cases against Sirius XM and Pandora, leading to the decisions that we wrote about in New York ( here and here ), California ( here ), and Florida ( here ). What is at issue in the Georgia case is a criminal statute similar to those found in many states that prohibits the unauthorized transfer of various recordings, including pre-1972 sound recordings, without permission of the owner of the master recording
Relief is found by loosening the belt a notch or two
We’ve written (see, e.g. our articles here , here and here ) about the pending petitions asking the FCC to reconsider decisions reached last year to end the UHF discount, to leave the TV local ownership rules in place and to make attributable new TV Joint Sales Agreements, and to not adopt any change in the FCC radio ownership rules in “embedded markets.” Recently, that list of items on the table before the FCC has expanded, with a number of radio groups making a concerted push to change the FCC rules on ownership “subcaps” – limiting the number of AM or FM stations that can be owned in a single market .
More on Flo & Eddie: Federal Court Certifies to California State Court Question of Whether There is a Public Performance Right in Pre-1972 Sound…
The music battle continues over the question of whether state laws provide a public performance right in pre-1972 sound recordings . While, as we wrote here and here , the highest court in New York has determined that there is no such right in that state ending the litigation there, cases continue in other states, notably California (where a Federal Court determined that there was a state right, see our summary here ) and Florida (where the Federal Court determined that there was not, see our summary here ). The Florida case has been referred to that state’s highest court for an advisory ruling on the state of the state’s law on the issue, and earlier this week, the same thing happened in California. The US Court of Appeals for the 9 th Circuit, which was hearing an appeal of the Federal District Court decision that there was a performance right under California law, decided to turn to the experts in California state law – the California Supreme Court – and ask for an interpretation of California law to determine if there is indeed a public performance right in these pre-1972 recordings. Flo & Eddie , the performers behind the 1960s band the Turtles, stirred up a major music rights controversy several years ago by their high-profile lawsuits against music services including Sirius XM and Pandora as to whether there is a state law public performance right in pre-1972 sound recordings (see our article here on the first of these suits).