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FCC Upholds $25,000 Phone Call Fine

Says SBS on the hook for recording prank calls without prior notification

The FCC upheld an earlier fine of $25,000 against Spanish Broadcasting System Holding Co. for recording two calls for on-air use without prior notification to those callers.

During a comedy bit aired on WZNT(FM), San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2006 called “You Fell For It,” two employees made prank calls. One pretended to be an intruder hiding under the caller’s bed and the other pretended to be a loan shark, trying to collect a debt.

At least one caller became upset and a complaint was filed with the FCC, which asked SBS about the incidents in 2010. SBS said it didn’t keep the recordings and couldn’t say for sure if the segments aired.

SBS thought the fine should be cancelled for lack of evidence. Though a recording would have been nice, the commission says it’s never required those who file these kinds of complaints to provide one.

This week, the commission declined to lower or cancel the fine, saying SBS didn’t provide any evidence to disprove the complaint. Specifically, SBS didn’t provide the required notice to the caller before beginning to record the call for possible airplay, according to the commission. It also doesn’t matter who actually filed the complaint, according to the agency. In this case, it was someone other than the caller.

SBS has 30 days to pay.