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FCC Confirms Cumulus Sponsor ID Penalty

Broadcast group had sought to reduce $233,000 fine

Cumulus has failed to convince the Federal Communications Commission to reduce a $233,000 fine for violating sponsorship identification rules. The FCC also scolded the company for violating terms of a consent decree.

Broadcasters are required to disclose information about sponsors of paid-for programming. The commission decided last summer that various arms of Cumulus had aired paid programming without sponsorship ID announcements 26 times, and failed to notify the FCC about 13 of them as required by a 2016 consent decree that resolved earlier violations.

[Read: Broadcaster to Pay $125,000 as Part of Civil Penalty and Consent Decree]

Cumulus didn’t contest the findings in August but wanted the penalty reduced to the base penalty of $104,000. It said that the higher fine is excessive and argued that earlier incidents should not be used to justify a higher penalty because Cumulus had subsequently been reorganized, went through a transfer of control and now had a different board.

But in this week’s order the FCC wrote, among other things: “The respondent’s implication that it is a drastically different organization post-transfer is belied by the fact that its core senior management remained unchanged by the transfer of control.” And it stated: “The commission expects parties to honor agreements made in consent decrees, and when parties fail to do so, it is a very serious matter.”

Cumulus also had argued that its overall record of rule compliance is “as good as or better than any other large broadcaster in the industry,” that it has a “stellar” reputation, that management has focused on adherence to FCC rules, and that out of approximately 135 million ads during the three-year period covered by the consent decree, there were only two occasions of sponsorship ID noncompliance.

The commission dismissed those arguments too, saying, among other things, that it doesn’t take a company’s overall size into account as a mitigating factor. “To the contrary, if a corporate entity chooses to acquire many stations, it must ensure that it scales up its compliance efforts accordingly.”

Read the order.