To hear about local news, public opinion and general entertainment, listeners tune in to the radio. Broadcasters have the opportunity to keep their audiences current and the freedom to produce whatever content they want. Whether the stations is for sports, music, news or talk radio, there are rules every station must follow. These rules are delegated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC authorizes broadcast stations and sets regulations to guarantee each station is upholding their service obligations to the public. Below is a basic outline of the regulations every broadcasting station must follow:
One of the largest ways a radio station makes a profit is through sponsorships. Nowadays, it’s impossible not to hear an ad or promotion on radio stations. There’s nothing wrong with sponsorship, but there are rules broadcasters must follow. When releasing a sponsored ad or talking about a product or service, broadcasters must remain honest about the advertisements placed on their station. If the station and its employees agree to receive payment in exchange for airing and promoting material, they must fully disclose this fact to audiences. When a broadcaster is being paid to promote a product or service, they’re required by federal law and the FCC to let their listeners know that it’s a sponsorship.
Serve the Community
Broadcast stations have a duty to their local community to be a voice of news, public affairs, of political topics. The FCC requires that stations are involved with their local community and to be aware of any issues their communities are facing. Broadcasters must present programming that relates to these important problems to give the public an understanding. Each station has the responsibility of identifying these issues and treat them as local matters. It is also imperative that broadcasters provide the public with information of how it has met this obligation through quarterly reports. These reports contain a listing of aired programming that the station firmly believes gave “significant treatment of issues facing the community.”
Freedom of Speech
The station and its broadcasters are responsible for selecting the material that they air. According to FCC rules, “The First Amendment, as well as Section 326 of the Communications Act, prohibits the Commission from censoring broadcast material and from interfering with freedom of expression in broadcasting.” As long as the entertainment programming and programs concerning local communities is of public interest, the station has the freedom to select their own content and topics. First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech which “protects programming that stereotypes or may otherwise offend people” and “broadcasts that criticize or ridicule established customs and institutions.” But any listener who is offended by the station’s programming can lodge a complaint which may lead to penalty from the FCC.
Broadcast stations have a responsibility to their communities. Although stations are meant for entertainment, they must also serve the public and give them informative programming based on local issues.
Mitch Levy has spent nearly 30 years in radio and sports broadcasting after earning a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse. Read more of his advice for the radio industry or check out his Twitter!