Typically when a broadcaster violates the FCC’s phone call broadcast rules it involves a prank from the edgier members of the air staff. But sometimes, as in the case of KTVX-TV Salt Lake City, it’s the usually more responsible news staff that breaks the rules.
The violation occurred on the watch of Newport Television. The station has since been added to the Nexstar portfolio as part of a $225.5M group acquisition.
In the course of working a news story, the station twice aired a news segment that included a phone call featuring a citizen who was not informed of the fact that the call was to be broadcast.
The citizen not only had to be informed, but also had to consent to the airing of the phone call.
“Consumers rightly expect that their phone conversations will not be surreptitiously recorded and broadcast to the public without their prior knowledge or consent,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. “We hold broadcasters to high standards and will ensure that they fully respect the privacy rights of consumers.”
The FCC explained, “The Commission’s Telephone Broadcast Rule protects the privacy of consumers when they answer the telephone. Specifically, it requires broadcast licensees to inform any party they call of their intent to broadcast the conversation. It also prohibits broadcast licensees from actually broadcasting a telephone conversation without first informing the party to that conversation that it is being broadcast or recorded for later broadcast.”
On top of committing the infraction, Newport was slow to respond to FCC inquiries into the matter.
The transgression was handled via the consent decree route rather than as a straight forward rule violation enforcement. As part of the settlement, Newport will pay a $35,000 civil penalty to the US Treasury.