WASHINGTON, D.C.—Traditionally, radio and TV broadcasters have drawn a bright red line between news coverage and sponsored content. However, in December 2017, TV giant Sinclair was fined $13 million by the FCC for running third-party-provided news stories in exchange for compensation without tagging the content as sponsored.

Womble Bond Dickinson telecom lawyer John Garziglia discussed the FCC’s Sponsorship Identification Rule in a new Radio Ink column. The Sponsorship Identification Rule requires “that the broadcast of radio programming in which consideration of any kind is received in connection with the broadcast include a sponsorship identification announcement naming the individual or entity providing money, things, or services of value,” Garziglia said.

However, there are a number of gray areas that can get a radio station in trouble. For example, if a local beer distributor takes out an ad for the beer brand, but the distributor isn’t actually named in the ad.

Also, if paid advocacy is disguised as news content, it can run afoul of the Sponsorship Identification Rule. A Chicago radio station was fined $44,000 in 2014 for such a paid spot.

Click here to read “Are You Violating The Sponsorship ID Rule?” 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.