Monday, May 10, 2010

THE RULES OF RADIO - Recapping the Regulations


Last week I listened in on another great Conclave Webinar.
Wednesday 5/5's Conclave webinar – covered the "The Rules of Radio” and recapped the important Regulations. Hosted by Jay Philpot along with Peter Gould, a communications attorney with the firm of Lerman-Senter in Washington DC - tackled important questions: Do you know what's legal and what is not, regarding your radio station? What is a Legal ID for an HD station? What is the exact process you must go through before airing a phone call? Is it ever OK to air one of the "seven words"? Are you and your staff up to speed on how to run an EAS test, are you running the correct contest rules and is your public file in order? How much will it cost if you are wrong? During this webinar, basic and important knowledge on DOZENS of the very important rules and regulations radio broadcasters must follow, or face fines from the FCC, were discussed.

Here is a re-cap, I am including some items that stuck out for me but I recommend you download the entire webinar. It contained great information that could help any market with rules and regulations as well as maintain and build a superior product!

The FCC: An Overview

Content of the announcement
-Call letters immediately followed by community of license (KALL-FM, Anytown)
What about HD Stations?
-KALL-FM and HD, Anytown
-KALL-FM and HD, KSIS HD-3, Anytown
-KALL-FM and HD, KSIS HD-3, Anytown, KBRO HD-2, Othertown

On-Air Announcements
-KICE runs two contests that solicit listeners to see “who can sit on a block of ice the longest” paired with “who can light their butt on fire” to win concert tickets.
-KHLP runs contest where 50 envelopes are placed in hopper with 49 to contain a certificate for $1 and 1 to contain a certificate for $10,000. Station mistakenly places 49 $10,000 certificates in hopper.
-KICE runs two contests that solicit listeners to see “who can sit on a block of ice the longest” paired with “who can light their butt on fire” to win concert tickets.
-KHLP runs contest where 50 envelopes are placed in hopper with 49 to contain a certificate for $1 and 1 to contain a certificate for $10,000. Station mistakenly places 49 $10,000 certificates in hopper.

The Telephone Rule
-Notification must be prior to broadcast or recording for broadcast.
-Applies to telephone answering machines, “third party calls” and foreign calls, too.
-Does not apply to station’s call-in number.

Copyright/Trademark Snafus
-WCPY needs a picture for the station website, so they copy a picture found on another website.
-WDUM production director uses a 5 second piece of music from the theme to Hill Street Blues in a commercial spot produced for local bail bond company.

The station is forced to pay several thousand dollars to the photographer who took the picture.
The station is forced to pay $10,000 to Fox TV and also pay the musical composer. Lesson: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC licenses permit broadcast of songs on-air, not use in the production and broadcast of promos or ads.

Lesson: Always assume content from another source is protected.

Copyright/Trademark Snafus
-Station Lawyer advises WLIE Promotions Director that giving away World Series tickets is a violation of MLB’s trademark and contract rights. Promotions Director “solves” the problem by removing the ticket giveaway prize from the official contest rules but very publicly awards the tickets to the winner anyway.
Copyright/Trademark Infringement is Expensive!

“Ambush Marketing” -- attempting to form an association with the NFL, NCAA, Olympics or other event in the minds of consumers by using promotions and advertisements to create the appearance of a relationship between the station and/or station clients and the event -- is a form of trademark infringement.

Legal claims for copyright infringement can be very expensive (statutory damages can range from $750 to $150,000 for each violation) and very hard to defend.
Trademark damages are too!

-The broadcast of false information of a catastrophe or crime that the station knows is false, and it’s foreseeable that the broadcast will, and does, cause substantial public harm.
-Public Harm = damage to property or to health or safety of public; or diversion of law enforcement or other public authorities.
-Even when broadcast doesn’t meet legal standard, can still be dangerous…for you!

Payola and Plugola
“Payola” occurs when a station or employee accepts payment, service or other consideration for the inclusion of material on-air.
“Plugola” refers to the situation where a station fails to identify an outside business interest of the company, station or an employee (e.g. talent promotes a nightclub on-air in which the talent has an undisclosed financial interest).
Violation is federal crime!

On-Air Content Issues
-KCON carelessly edits a news story which results in the story implying that the car dealership run by the brother of a convicted felon was a chop shop. The brother in fact is totally legit.
Result: KCON spends tens of thousands of $$ on legal fees and ultimately is forced to settle the case by running numerous free spots for the dealership.
-False statement that injures reputation
-Usually involves dishonesty or criminal conduct
-True facts about a person’s private life
-Not newsworthy/offensive/outrageous
-Most dangerous bits involve: personal vendettas, guests that have not been pre-interviewed, callers that have not been screened

On-Air Content Issues
Should you air this material?
-During the course of an interview with a well-known rock star, you ask him what it was like to “bang” a certain well known actress. He answers “It was unf[bleep]ing believable”
-The Supreme Court recently upheld an FCC decision that even fleeting expletives are indecent.
-If completely bleeped, the expletive would not be aired and therefore would not be actionable.
-If not completely bleeped – the FCC will come calling and the station will potentially be fined.
-Raunchy or vulgar words such as “bang”, “dick”, “douche-bag,” or “asshole” may or may not be indecent, but should be avoided nonetheless.

Should you air this material?
-Interview with underage teen girls asking them about exhibitionism (“you want to flash”), oral sex (“lined four or five guys up against the lockers”) and lesbianism (“put on shows at parties with your boobies out”).
-Notice of Apparent Liability for $55,000
-Maximum fine has since been increased to $325,000.

Indecency defined: keep your eye on the moving target!
-Language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs.

So…what does it mean?
No expletives.
No sexual or excretory references that are:
-graphic or explicit.
-dwell on or repeat at length.
-pander or titillate (presented solely for shock value).
Be careful of innuendo and double entendre.
Be careful of sexual or excretory sound effects.
Be careful to bleep words completely.

Don’t Fall With the Fools …
Think of FCC and Legal Issues Every Day !!!

A recording of this webinar is now available. After submitting a Webinar Order Form with full remittance, you'll be sent a link with which you can download a .wmv file containing the webinar's recording. The Webinar Order Form also serves as a 35th Anniversary Conclave Learning Conference registration form, so you can register for next summer's conference AND save money on your webinar recording...all at the same time. To download a Webinar Order Form, click HERE!

**Conclave webinars are coordinated, produced and hosted by Conclave Board member and The Arch/St. Louis air talent, Jay Philpott

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