The wrong number for a pair of Spanish Broadcasting System New York City FMs may well be 16K – put a dollar sign in front of that and you’ll have the price the FCC wants each to direct to Uncle Sam for some over-air phone calls made outside the boundaries of the regulations, to say nothing of the boundaries of good taste.
A contractor was hired by SBS, who called a woman and, with the tapes running, said he was calling from a hospital and asked her to come and identify a corpse believed to be her husband. That apparently was not funny enough, so the prankster added in the corpse of the woman’s daughter as well.
The calls were said by the FCC to have been aired on WSKQ-FM in New York and WXDJ-FM in Miami two times each, and besides driving the victim to the point of hysteria, she was not informed of the intent to broadcast the call in advance. The FCC said prior notice of intent to broadcast was codified into the rules in part to head off stunts like this one.
SBS tried to duck the fine by claiming the contractor was not an employee of the company, which the FCC flatly rejected. There is a base fine of $4K for a failure to notify phone violation, but given a prior history of such problems and the repeated nature of the offense in question, both stations were bumped up to $16K.
Apparently in this case the woman actually, stunningly, agreed to allow this conversation to be broadcast. But apparently it was such a despicable prank that three complaints were received in regards to it, although in all cases the complainants asked to remain anonymous. But post-recording permission is too late; the intent to broadcast must be divulged and agreed to at the very outset.
RBR/TVBR observation: We just are unable to stop imagining ourselves being the recipient of a phone call like this. It is a comfort that most radio broadcasters have not reached such a state of creative bankruptcy that they resort to this kind of stunt. We’ll suffer an inadvertent f-bomb any day rather than this kind of pre-meditated garbage. If we were SBS, rather than protest the FCC fine, we’d double-down on it – pay it gladly and offer at least the same amount to the woman with the most humble apology we could muster and the most sincere promise to never do it again to anybody.