According to a trio of undisclosed sources who spoke with Reuters, the FCC is ready issue a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture in the amount of $13.3 million to Sinclair Broadcast Group for its failure to notify viewers that they were watching paid programming.
At issue, says Reuters, is paid programming that aired on various Sinclair stations that was sponsored by the Utah-based Huntsman Cancer Institute — but was not disclosed as sponsored content.
Some 1,700 commercials mimicking news stories aired during local newscasts on the Sinclair stations, running over a six-month period in 2016.
The fine could hush, at least momentarily, sharp criticism of the FCC’s actions on the restoration of the UHF Discount and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on whether the 39% national owner cap for TV broadcasting companies should be modified. Democrats and consolidation opponents have assailed the FCC for taking this action as a sign of favoritism toward Sinclair.
Neither a FCC spokesperson nor a Sinclair representative commented to Reuters.
The NAL against Sinclair, which could be made public on Monday (12/18) “represents an average fine of about $7,700 for each of the improperly aired spots but is significantly less than the maximum fine Sinclair could have faced under the law,” Reuters notes.