Be Smart: Avoid Phone Scam Fines

Posted on February 23, 2011


It’s been seven years since Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show on CBS. The FCC’s ensuing furor about broadcast indecency has finally calmed down over the last few yeas possibly due to fears at the commission of a court challenge by broadcasters that could lead to the entire idea of regulating decency being thrown out as a violation of free speech.

However, that isn’t a license to be stupid. The FCC is still there and they have the ability to levy fines against your station. Don’t forget that.

One area they commission is not shy about investigating is the ever-popular phone scam or phony phone call. According to FCC regulations you have to let a person know they are on the air, or being recorded, before you do anything else. You can’t wait until after the bit then get their permission to use it on the air. That doesn’t fly with the FCC. If a person you got permission from after the bit complains to the FCC you are still liable.

Spanish Broadcasting Systems just got hit with a $25,000 fine for two phone scams that aired on the “El Vacilon de la Manana” show heard on “Zeta 93” WZNT, San Juan, Puerto Rico. The first was a caller “pretending to be an intruder hiding under the bed.” The second was a character named “Moonshadow” posing as a loan shark.

I know fake phone calls are a popular bit and I’m not saying don’t do them. Just be smart. The safest way is to fake the whole thing. If you won’t do that at the very least be sure to go outside of your market to another area of the country but remember even that isn’t as safe as it used to be with so many bits being posted online and listeners tuning in from out-of-state on your station’s stream. Also be sure to take complaints seriously. If someone you scammed calls the station and is upset about the bit talk to them. You’d be amazed how many simple, contrite, off-air conversations have headed off FCC complaints. Most people just want to be heard and acknowledged.