Cumulus Could Pay FCC For Consent Decree Fail


WASHINGTON, D.C. — In January 2016, Cumulus Media and the FCC agreed to settle an investigation into whether the radio group violated the commission’s sponsorship ID rules.

Now, the FCC says the company has violated the terms of a Consent Decree reached to civilly resolve the matter and may be on the hook for a $233,000 financial penalty.

The Commission on Tuesday proposed the fine against four Cumulus subsidiaries, for apparent violations of the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules — and for apparently failing to promptly self-report some of these violations to the FCC despite its agreement to do so under the prior Consent Decree with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.

“The FCC’s action today advances the agency’s longstanding goals of protecting consumers by ensuring that they know who is attempting to persuade them, and of protecting broadcasters and sponsors from unfair competitors that fail to abide by the FCC’s sponsorship disclosure rules,” the Commission said. “When a broadcast licensee fails to disclose the sponsor of paid programming, it might mislead the public into believing that the paid broadcast material is a station’s independently-generated news or editorial content.  In addition, this action advances the Commission’s commitment to ensure that parties fully comply with consent decrees and other FCC orders.”

As RBR+TVBR first reported in January 2016, Cumulus agreed to pay a $540,000 civil penalty — the largest single amount for a single-station violation of the agency’s sponsorship ID laws — in a Consent Decree that resolved a problem tied to WOKQ-FM in Dover, N.H. in 2011.

At the time, someone complained that the station aired announcements supporting a hydro-electric energy project without specifying that the company with a financial interest in the project was actually behinds the ads.

The station aired 178 of the announcements, according to the commission.

Along with a civil penalty, Cumulus entered into a compliance plan, and agreed to report any noncompliance with the sponsorship identification rules within 15 calendar days after discovery of such noncompliance.

That didn’t happen.

“The FCC finds that in 2017 and 2018, seven of Cumulus’ radio stations apparently failed, in 26 instances, to air appropriate sponsorship identifications as required by FCC rules,” the Commission said. “In addition, Cumulus waited nearly eight months before reporting certain of these violations to the Bureau, in violation of its commitments in the 2016 Consent Decree.”

As such, the proposed fine has been handed to Cumulus, via a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture.

It’s now up to Cumulus to respond; the Commission will consider the party’s submission of evidence and legal arguments before acting further to resolve the matter.

The Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture is available here: