SBS hit with enhanced fine for airing phone calls


It is against FCC rules to broadcast a telephone call without informing the subject of the call that it will be on the air. That made a program premised on making prank phone calls to unsuspecting individuals a risky proposition from the get-go. And in the case of Spanish Broadcasting System, when the FCC received a phone call complaint, it noted that the group had some priors.

The program in question – “You Fell for It” — originates on SBS’s WZNT-FM San Juan PR and is rebroadcasts on two other stations. The complaint alleged that a station air talent going by the name Moonshadow called the prank victim on two separate occasions.

The complainant said “in the first call, the caller pretended to be an intruder hiding under the bed,” and on the second, Moonshadow pretended to be a loan shark, attempting to collect on a debt.” The calls were said to have occurred on 4/13/06.

SBS said it did not keep recordings of its broadcasts and had no way to confirm or deny the complaint. But it did admit to airing the program, which makes prank calls based on requests from family or friends to the recipient.
The base fine for failing to inform a citizen that a phone call is destined for broadcast is $4K. The FCC saw fit to bump that all the way up to $25K, due to the fact that the program was aired over three stations, and because it was not SBS’s first violation for the same offense.

SBS’s WXDJ-FM in Miami was hit for $16K for running a prank where a person working for the station called a woman, pretended to be a hospital employee and drove her to the point of hysteria by informing her that the dead bodies of her husband and daughter were there. That incident took place 7/19/07.