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WSKQ Directed to Pay $16,000

FCC says SBS station recorded call before getting permission

It’s the second phone call fine in a week for Spanish Broadcasting Systems.

The FCC upheld an earlier fine of $16,000 levied against WSKQ(FM), New York City. The commission says the station recorded a phone call for broadcast without prior notification to the caller.

The agency investigated a complaint from 2007; the complainant alleged that as a prank, a WSKQ DJ called a woman, pretended to be a local hospital worker, and told the caller her husband had been injured in an accident and had died.

The DJ did tell woman the call had been a joke, according to the complaint.

WSKQ told the commission that parent SBS contracted with a vendor, Ruben Ithier, who made the call and made a recording for a prank call feature show. SBS admitted Ithier initiated the call that was aired by WSKQ and that neither Ithier nor the station told the woman the call would be recorded for later broadcast until after the conversation had been recorded.

The station told the commission it aired the call more than once. In 2012, the commission fined the station $16,000.

WSKQ thought the fine should be cancelled. It argued the call rule only applied to a licensee, not a vendor and that the woman who received the call gave the station the OK to air the call.

The commission found WSKQ’s arguments meritless, explaining the rule says you have to notify someone the call may be aired and get their permission to record the call before hitting the “record” button.

Licensees are responsible for the actions of their employees and independent contractors, according to the agency.

That’s why the agency upheld the $16,000 fine that WSKQ has 30 days to pay.