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FCC: Programs Paid by Political Entity Draws $500K Sponsorship ID Fine

As you know, a station must include a sponsorship ID on all paid advertising. This is especially true for political advertising. However, we often get questions regarding issues programs and even syndicated programs that appear to be news or news interview programs. You must be careful if your station is not producing the news or news interview program. When accepting programming from a third party, the station must make sure the entity that is sponsoring or producing the program is not itself a political entity. This is exactly what happened to stations in Idaho. According to the FCC,


“The Investigation revealed that for nearly one and a half years (from early October 2021 to late March 2023), the Stations broadcast a one-hour episode of, and 30-second advertisements promoting, the Program. The format of each episode nominally resembled a news interview/public affairs program produced and presented by the Stations. In fact, however, all episodes of the Program were paid political presentations. Townsquare was paid to broadcast episodes of the Program and related advertisements initially by and on behalf of the Idaho Republican Party, and later by Tom Luna on behalf of a company doing business as Tom Luna and Associates. The hosts of each episode (Tom Luna and Victor Miller, chairman of the Ada County (Idaho) Republican Party) were solely responsible for producing the Program, including selecting guests and determining program content. Neither station provided any on-air Sponsorship ID announcements for the vast majority of the episodes or promotional advertisements that they aired revealing to listeners the true nature of the broadcasts and the identity of those who paid for them. In addition, multiple episodes of the Program contained appearances that constituted uses by legally qualified candidates for public office and communicated messages relating to political matters of national importance. Neither station uploaded records of any such candidate uses or messages to their respective online political files.”


Thus, if a political entity is producing/sponsoring the program, then you must include a sponsorship ID for the program and any political advertisements that are included in the program. 


You can see the FCC’s decision and consent decree here.




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