Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stupid DJ Tricks: Part 8

First of all it's important to note that as of 2006 the FCC had only fined one Spanish radio station for obscenity or indecency. Seems impossible right? I'll cite the June 2006 issue of Billboard on that fact.Without getting into the particulars, let it be known that they really really wanted to. The FCC has always been on shaky legal ground with fines for racy content. They have those vague local standards to contend with and the initial requirement of the incident generating a complaint. But it was common knowledge that certain programs, particularly a couple on SBS and Lieberman were downright filthy. But due to the nature of prurient slang in the Spanish language, the FCC had bupkis. Obscenity is lost in translation. As a result, when they get fined for other violations the FCC seems to swing the hammer down.
With a virtual get-out-of-jail-free-card you'd expect the station would be disciplined in more vulnerable areas. but no. These are DJs. Let me tell you the story of Tropical radio station 97.9 WSKQ, New York. The fine was for a prank call on the program "El Vacilon De La Manana" which I should note is syndicated on at least 6 stations. The name translates to "The Joke of Tomorrow" or "The Party of Tomorrow." In 2007 they were fined $16,000 for airing a telephone conversation with a caller without giving advance notice to that caller.

What made this more heinous They made a call to a "Ms. Juliana" and informed her that her husband had just died in a motorcycle accident deliberate to elicit a frantic emotional response.Thereafter, the Station employee informed her that the call was a "joke." Now it's morally interesting to note that the husband initiated the prank, but legally irrelevant. I'll parse he particulars after quoting a highlight:

WSKQ: Can I speak with Ms. Juliana please?
Ms. Juliana: Who is this?
WSKQ: The Doctor Raymond Martinez, I’m just calling from [bleeped out] Hospital
Ms. Juliana: Aha? Yes Juliana
WSKQ: Do you know anybody with the name Luis, Luis Miguel?
Ms. Juliana: Yes
WSKQ: OK, this person had an accident in mid afternoon.
Ms. Juliana: OK
WSKQ: on a motorcycle.
Ms. Juliana: How is he? How is he?
WSKQ: He cannot move his hands, he can’t move his arms, he suffered because he was not wearing his helmet...

It goes on like that for another 15 minutes. What they actually violated is called the telephone broadcast rule Section 73.1206. “Before recording a telephone conversation for broadcast, or broadcasting such a conversation simultaneously with its occurrence, a licensee shall inform any party to the call of the licensee’s intention to broadcast the conversation..." The husbands initiation is irrelevant. WSKQ blamed the call on Rubin Ithier, who provided the call under a contract. But much like the way Haliburton blamed Transocean, the FCC has long held licensees responsible for acts by independent contractors. In reality, blame should flow upward, not sink downward. More here.