The FCC Media Bureau has reached settlements with six of the radio industry’s biggest companies in respective moves that it believes “will ensure timely compliance” with rules requiring that AM and FM stations upload to their online public inspection files records of requests for the purchase of political broadcast time.
The six group owners are Alpha Media, Beasley Media Group, Cumulus Media, Entercom, Salem Media Group, and the nation’s No. 1 owner of radio stations by asset count, iHeartMedia.
Collectively, the companies own and operate 1,884 commercial radio stations across the country.
Section 315(e)(3) of the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended) requires stations to place information about each request for the purchase of broadcast time for all candidate-sponsored advertisements and certain issue advertisements in their political files for public inspection “as soon as possible.”
Similarly, Section 73.1943(c) of the Commission’s rules requires information to be made available for public inspection as soon as possible, barring any unusual circumstances.
As the Media Bureau notes, “These provisions are intended to ensure that the public has timely access to important information about political advertisements, such as the identity of the sponsoring organization. Additionally, it is crucial that stations maintain political files that are complete and up to date because the information in them directly affects, among other things, the statutory rights of opposing candidates to request equal opportunities.”
It is the Media Bureau’s determination that the six group owners repeatedly failed to comply with their political file obligations in the past.
As such, each of the companies committed to adopting internal reforms and, the Media Bureau says. were able to demonstrate they had come into “substantial compliance” during the first quarter of 2020.
This led the Media Bureau to codify Consent Decrees agreed upon by each of the six radio broadcasting companies. This will see Alpha Media, Beasley, Cumulus Media, Entercom, Salem and iHeartMedia implement strict compliance plans at each of their stations and submit detailed compliance reports to the Media Bureau through at least December 2021, confirming all information was timely uploaded to their online political files.
Each of the Consent Decrees mirror each other, and none include a financial obligation to the U.S. Treasury.