Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 10:04am
FCC FINES STATIONS FOR SPONSORSHIP IDENTIFICATION INFRACTIONS
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable, AUTHOR: John Eggerton]
The Federal Communications Commission issued its first fines for stations airing Armstrong Williams’ plugs for the “No Child Left Behind” initiative, plugs paid for by the Department of Education. The revelation of those payments caused a firestorm of criticism and a dressing-down of the DOE, and it led to payola complaints by Free Press at the FCC. The FCC Thursday fined Sonshine's WBPH-TV Bethlehem, Pa., for airing five episodes (a total of 10 times) of The Right Side with Armstrong Williams, and Sinclair a total of $76,000 for airing America's Black Forum. Both were cited for violating the FCC's sponsorship-identification rules. Sonshine admitted to being paid $100 for each show, but it argued that it was a nominal consideration and that it had no knowledge that Williams' production company had been paid to include any messages in the broadcast and had "no basis on which to conclude that a sponsorship announcement was required." Station-owner Sinclair Broadcast Group doesn't plan to pay the fine and said it will take the Commission to court.
* FCC Commissioners Adelstein and Copps: "Growing abuses of the public trust in recent years are shaking Americans' confidence in the press. When pundits are paid to promote a corporate or government agenda while the public is never told, all commenters and journalists become suspect. The repeated revelations of advertisers paying their way onto news programming without disclosure undercut the credibility of all journalists. When budget cuts in newsrooms lead broadcasters to substitute advertisements disguised by slick public relations firms as news instead of paying for their own work, viewers and listener wonder what they can believe. When newsrooms are too strapped or sloppy to perform their due diligence and provide disclosure announcements, as required by law, it leads to a crisis of confidence. So we now face a crisis in American journalism. That is why today's action by the Commission is so important. It sends a clear message that the public has a right to know who is trying to persuade them so they can make up their own minds about what is presented to them."
* FCC Finally Fines Stations for Armstrong Williams Payola (Free Press)
"Although a small price to pay given the scope of Armstrong Williams’ deception, the fines were long overdue. Using taxpayer-funded propaganda to shape popular opinion is illegal, unethical and an insult to the public. Broadcasters who allow such propaganda on the air should be dealt with strictly and swiftly. Let’s hope today’s action ends Williams’ career as a pundit-for-hire and sends a message to Sinclair and every other broadcaster that propaganda won't be tolerated on the public airwaves."
* FCC Fines Stations for Cover-Up
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