The Federal Communications Commission has a couple of reminders for U.S. radio and TV stations.
First, its Enforcement Bureau has issued an advisory to broadcasters about their obligations for sponsorship identification.
“Broadcasters who air paid-for programming without disclosing the program’s sponsor can mislead the public and promote unfair competition,” the bureau reminded them in a public announcement.
“Such non-disclosures foster the perception by the public that a paid announcement is the station’s editorial content, while concealing that the station is being paid by a third party to promote a particular message. That impression can also give undisclosed sponsors an unfair advantage over competitors whose paid programming is properly disclosed as paid-for material.”
The document summarizes broadcasters’ disclosure obligations and provides more information; read it here.
Second, with the broadcast license renewal cycle moving ahead, the Media Bureau is reminding commercial broadcast licensees that every “sharing” agreement about the operation of the station must be retained in their online public files.
That includes lease of airtime, joint sale of advertising or sharing of operational services.
“Commercial broadcast licensees have a longstanding obligation to place in their OPIF, within 30 days of their execution, public copies of every agreement or contract involving the lease of airtime on a licensee’s station (or of another station by the licensee) and every agreement for the joint sale of advertising time involving the station,” the bureau wrote.
It emphasized that these requirements are based on the substance of an agreement rather than its title, even if it is not specifically labeled as a “Time Brokerage Agreement,” “Local Marketing Agreement,” “Joint Sales Agreement” or “Shared Services Agreement.”
Broadcasters have seen recently that the FCC is well aware of what is in their online public files, given the announcements in recent months of numerous consent decrees involving public and political files not being kept current.