Not everything that goes on the Internet stays forever, but you can bet that if something goes on the Web that you don’t want to be there in the future – it probably will be there for a very long time. So, while it might be tempting for us to write an April Fool’s edition story, “Obama announces broadcaster bailout program,” we won’t do it (not as a standalone story) because after today, someone somewhere might pick it up as real, which would damage the credibility of RBR/TVBR.
The Internet ramification is just one more thing to be concerned about if your station is doing any sort of April Fool’s trick today. Anything you put on the web could well end up in a cache somewhere that you have no control over, so you need to be sure that the content is so obviously a joke that no one will take it as real when they stumble across it on October 23, 2011, rather than April 1, 2009. That may take some of the fun out of an April Fool’s gag, but the risk is too great otherwise.
Of course, you still have to worry about the FCC’s hoax rule, particularly if a gag creates a traffic jam or some other sort of public safety problem that gets the local police involved. And the FCC’s requirement that you get permission from the person being called via telephone before you put them on the air applies on April 1st the same as any other day.
Hopefully, you’ve gone over all of this with your air staff previously and aren’t just winging it today.
Jokes are fun, but fines are not.
RBR/TVBR observation: It’s getting so a radio or television station almost needs an in-house lawyer to make sure you not only don’t violate any FCC rules, but also don’t do anything you could be sued over. That is the state of our litigious society.