This week, a South Carolina radio station’s listeners were surprised to find their regular programming interrupted by a political song with obscene lyrics. A hacker (from IP addresses in Russia and Taiwan) broke into Sunny 107.9’s transmitter and looped in the objectionable song.

While station officials certainly didn’t intend for this song to air, can the FCC still hold them liable? Womble Carlyle Telecom attorney John Garziglia addresses this question in a new column for "Radio Ink."

Garziglia said the station is under no obligation to inform the FCC. However, a listener complaint still may subject the station to a $350,000 FCC fine.

“At the risk of delving too deeply into the subject, no one has any idea what will be the FCC’s stance under the new Chairman on indecency,” Garziglia writes. In recent years, he said the FCC has been inconsistent in its handling of on-air profanity.

He adds, “These hacking incidents are a good reminder to confirm that your errors and omissions insurance policy covers potential fines and defense costs should an FCC indecency complaint be filed. Also, please confirm that your internet connected device password is not ‘password’”.

Click here to read “Are You Liable If Your Station is Hacked?” in "Radio Ink."

John Garziglia represents radio and television broadcasters, offering personalized assistance in all areas of communications and telecommunications law including transactional and contract negotiations for broadcast station mergers and acquisitions, the securing of financing, governmental auctions of new frequencies, license renewals, new stations applications, facility changes, facility upgrades, licensing, and compliance with FCC rules, regulations and policies.


Follow John Garziglia on Twitter at @JohnGarziglia.