Telephone Conversations Station must notify the outside party of its intention to air the conversation before broadcast.
News & Commentary The FCC may not direct broadcasters in their choice of material for newscasts and it may not act on such complaints — except where it can be shown that the news has been distorted.
Criticism of persons, groups and institutions The FCC may not abridge First Amendment rights.
Obscenity, Indecency and Profanity The broadcast of obscene, indecent, or profane language is expressly prohibited by federal law (Title 18, Section 1464 of the United States Code).
Obscenity: The FCC has regulations prohibiting obscene broadcasts at all times. The United States Supreme Court has determined that obscene speech is not entitled to First Amendment protection. Obscene speech is defined by a three-part test: (1) an average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (2) the material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by an applicable law; and (3) the material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Indecency: Broadcasts that are obscene are, by definition, indecent. The FCC has consistently defined an indecent broadcast as one that includes: language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs.
Indecency The FCC also generally prohibits indecent broadcasts, although indecent material may be broadcast between the “safe harbor” hours of 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., when children under the age of 17 are less likely to be in the listening or viewing audience. Each violation of the FCC’s indecency rules may result in a fine of up to $325,000, and may provide the basis for non-renewal of a station’s license or other harsh regulatory sanctions.
Profanity The FCC now interprets “profane” to cover “vulgar, irreverent, or coarse language” generally, at least when it is “so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.”
Violence Self-regulation is presently the only mechanism in place.
Contests May not pre-arrange the outcome of a contest. Proof of performance is required, meaning that a station must keep records of its compliance in fulfilling the awarding of prizes. Stations must disclose all “material terms.”
Hoaxes The FCC prohibits the broadcast of false information concerning a crime or catastrophe when: The licensee knows it to be false and it could cause harm. The War of the Worlds
Lotteries A lottery is defined as such when it meets the following three-pronged test. All three elements must be in place: Prize is awarded Element of chance is present Consideration is obtained as in the case of payment
Solicitation of Funds No federal law prohibits soliciting funds over the air.
Payola Defined as payment under the table without station management consent or knowledge in which payment is made in goods or cash for the purpose of affecting the choice of programming material (music) which is aired.
Plugola Defined as a plug, or mention over the air, of material which in any way promotes the business, in which the person making the mention has a vested interest.
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