Spanish Broadcasting Systems WSKQ-FM in New York had a contractor call a woman and told her that her husband had just been injured in an accident. During the course of the call, his condition was downgraded considerably, to deceased. Not only was the recipient of this call far from amused, she wasn’t previously informed that the conversation was being recorded for broadcast. The FCC wasn’t amused either.
Many might condemn this call on grounds of gross tastelessness – it left the women in tears and a friend had to complete the call. The responsibility of the SBS and the contractors may be mitigated somewhat by the fact that the call recipient’s allegedly deceased husband actually initiated the prank.
However, the fact that a call is being broadcast or is being recorded for later broadcast must be disclosed at the outset, and the contractor working on SBS’s behalf neglected to do that.
SBS tried to argue that it was the contractor’s fault, but the FCC pointed out that the licensee is responsible for the actions of any employee or contractor who becomes associated with the station.
The base fine for this violation is $4K; however, there are prior phone violations on WSKQ-FM’s FCC rap sheet, so the Commission upped the price tag for this one to $16K. In fact, the FCC warned that it was using its discretion to not set the fine even higher.