Underwriting Compliance Guide: 7. Consequences for underwriting violations
7. Consequences for underwriting violations
The FCC takes many different things into account when evaluating complaints on underwriting announcements including the frequency of messages, the number of different businesses, the tactics the station uses to obtain underwriters and the station’s past compliance record. This may result in anything from an admonishment (slap on the wrist, don’t do it again!) to a proposed forfeiture (fine). The station may be required to enter into a compliance program as part of a consent decree (agreement) reached between the station and the FCC. Violations while on a consent decree could result in stiffer fines, reduced license validity periods and in the worst cases, consideration for revocation hearings.
It is important to remember that the FCC fines the licensee corporation, not individuals. DJs and others need to realize that if they violate the rules, they are only hurting the station. Station management needs to be responsible that only those who are properly vetted to perform specific station functions should be permitted to be on the air or write and approve underwriting messages. The licensee is responsible for their operations and that includes the supervision of their staff, DJs, volunteers, contractors and attorneys.
In January, 2021, the FCC reached a Consent Decree with the licensee of WPLP-LP, Athens, GA, in connection with underwriting violations. This included a $10,000 civil penalty.
In September, 2021, the FCC reached a Consent Decree with the licensee of WAWL-LP, Grand Haven, MI, in connection with underwriting violations. This included a $17,500 civil penalty and an abbreviated renewal license term. REC discusses some of the troublesome advertising messages in this video.
In May, 2023, the FCC issued a Forfeiture Order to the licensee of KELS-LP, Greeley, CO amounting to $15,000 for underwriting violations. The troublesome advertising messages were evaluated by REC.
DISCLAIMER: THIS MANUAL WAS NOT WRITTEN BY AN ATTORNEY AND THEREFORE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. REC NETWORKS IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES THAT MAY ARISE FROM THE USE OF THIS MANUAL. THIS GUIDE IS BASED ON 20 YEARS OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE NON-COMMERCIAL (INCLUDING LPFM) BROADCAST SERVICE.