Why Salem Was Hit With $50,000 FCC Fine


    Do you know what all the hosts on your syndicated programs are saying? If you’re not taking their shows live, you may want to spend a weekend listening. What just happened to Salem may help you stay out of the financial penalty box with The FCC.

    The Federal Communications Commission says it has a longstanding goal of protecting consumers by ensuring that the public knows when certain program material is “live,” rather than taped, filmed, or recorded. Salem violated that rule and has agreed to pay the $50,000 penalty for that violation.

    The Commission received a complaint in August 2017, alleging that KRLA in Glendale, CA. broadcast the call-in show, HealthLine Live, as “live” but it was actually prerecorded.

    The show, hosted by Robert Marshall, promotes itself as “an exciting talk show that delivers cutting edge research on immune system health, natural hormones, optimal energy skin levels and joint health.” It’s website says calls are taken Monday through Friday 4:30 to 5:00 pm and Saturday 11 am to 12 pm (CST).

    KRLA is running the show from 9:00 am to 10:00 am on Saturday. However, while the host was airing his show live and taking calls, KRLA was not identifying to listeners that the show was recorded and those calls were taped, not live.

    Section 73.1208 of the FCC’s rules requires that “[a]ny taped, filmed or recorded program material in which time is of special significance, or by which an affirmative attempt is made to create the impression that it is occurring simultaneously with the broadcast, shall be announced at the beginning as taped, filmed or recorded.”

    KRLA admitted to The Commission that the show was pre-recorded and that other Salem stations carried the show and did not announce before the broadcast that the programming was taped or recorded; that at several times during the show, the host suggested that he was taking calls from listeners and speaking with them live over the air; and that the title of the show and the apparent interactive discussions with callers suggested to a listener that the Show was being presented live.

    That’s a no-no as far as the FCC goes.

    Salem has agreed to the $50,000 penalty and a 3-year compliance plan. That plan includes:
    – To appoint a corporate manager to oversee a compliance plan
    – To submit the plan to The Commission within 60 days
    – Develop a company compliance manual explaining the live broadcast rules
    – Establish a compliance training program
    – File a detailed report with The Commission after 90 days, 1 year, 2 years and 3 years.

    Broadcast attorney John Garziglia, who wrote about this topic back in 2016, had this to say after reading the Salem ruling: “Since this FCC rule was adopted, much has changed with the production and delivery of broadcast station programming.  Voice tracking was non-existent when this FCC rule was adopted as well as easy digital methods to delay programming. Because of changes in program delivery over the past several decades, it may be observed that while the FCC issued a pointed but brief decision invoking this pre-recorded programming rule based upon a complaint, the regulatory agency failed our regulated industry by reviving this rule without a full explanation of its current-day applicability to modern programming practices.”

    Read the Salem Consent Decree and Order HERE


    1. While it is an “eyebrow raiser” the FACT is if you’ve been in radio for a long time, you know the requirement for a “recorded for later broadcast” announcement was never revoked. You cannot blame the advertiser either as they aren’t required to know these things as they are not the licensee. What does it take, five seconds for the disclaimer? What’s the big deal? Does the disclaimer really matter beyond a legal requirement? That’s a good question! How does it hurt the audience if they don’t know what they are listening to is recorded? However, perhaps a more interesting aspect of this is the FCC taking an interest in these fake medical programs disguised as legitimate talkshows or interview programs. Perhaps the FCC should be taking an interest in these con-games where the advertiser will send you “a free bottle, just pay shipping”. If you have to pay anything, IT IS NOT FREE! That’s obvious. The ONLY reason these snake oil infomercials do that is to get your credit card number for tricking the caller into regular monthly shipments!

      • This is true about all FCC rules, and I’ve always felt they should not be allowed to have that kind of power. They also don’t have to reveal who makes the complaint or why, and the burden of proof is on stations to show that they did not violate the law rather than the complainant to show proof that they did. It’s grossly unfair and lacks transparency in the extreme and IMHO needs to be changed.

    2. It sounds like to be safe even a full time automated music station needs to have regular announcements that “some of the programming you here on WWWW is recorded and played at a later time” if it has ANY speaking segments, commercials, etc that might give the impression to someone that what they are saying could
      be happening right now.

    3. Terrible decision, likely unconstitutional. Why is broadcasting subjected to a dinosaur rule like this one??? John Garzilglia and the other comments have it right.

      The deeper reason is this rule and ruling ride roughshod over the First Amendment. The electronic press which uses air and electrons — must be as free as the press that uses paper and ink How in the world could the FCC let this one by?

      The larger lesson of this ruling is that broadcasting still operates under lots of “swampy”, unconstitutional rules. Thanks to Radio Ink for this story.

    4. Interesting how the FCC blew the dust off this regulation to whack a small station in the Los Angeles suburbs. I remember stations running brief disclaimers throughout the day stating that portions of their programming were pre-recorded, but when was the last time you heard this? Example: “Portions pre-recorded. This is KYW Philadelphia, Group W Westinghouse Broadcasting serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware with news the minute you want it…” That was about 50 years ago! KYW’s disclaimer ran before every legal ID.

    5. Too many idiot lawyers in Washington with not enough to keep them busy. What few remaining stations with actual live DJ’s will still record and rebroadcast listeners calling in on contests, or topic of the day. The voice track shows will also invite callers–and use responses later, maybe the next day.
      I fail to see any “harm” to the audience, just another way for the swamp to keep control over us peons. Probably, if pushed, a first amendment issue here.


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