FCC fines Sinclair Broadcasting Group $13M for airing paid content as news

By Ray Downs  |  Dec. 21, 2017 at 10:13 PM
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Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The Federal Communications Commission proposed a $13.4 million fine against the Sinclair Broadcasting Group Thursday for running paid programming during news programs without disclosure of its sponsors.

The fine amount is the largest ever proposed for a violation of the FCC's sponsorship identification rules.

The FCC said Sinclair aired paid programming about the Huntsman Cancer Institute during news programs under a paid agreement between the broadcaster and the cancer institute.

"This programming promoted the Foundation and the Institute and included 60- to 90-second sponsored stories made to look like independently generated news coverage and 30-minute paid television programs," the FCC said in a statement. "When broadcast licensees are paid or promised money or other valuable consideration to air specific programming, the Communications Act and FCC rules require them to air an announcement stating the program was paid for and the name of the individual or entity who paid for the program. Further, entities like Sinclair that supply paid programming to other broadcasters must inform them that the programming is sponsored."

The FCC said Sinclair failed to make those announcements to its viewers.

In a statement, Sinclair said the $13.4 million fine is "unreasonable, given the circumstances of our case and the absence of any viewer harm."

"Sinclair proudly supports the Cancer Foundation and its educational mission," the company said. "Any absence of sponsorship identification in these public service segments was unintended and a result of simple human error."

Sinclair said it plans to contest the fine.

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