Rule Against Broadcast of Telephone Conversation Without Prior Permission is Constitutional, Says FCC


The FCC today upheld a $4000 fine issued to a broadcaster for broadcasting a telephone conversation without first getting the permission of the people on the other end of the line, denying reconsideration that the broadcaster had sought - arguing that the fine violated its First Amendment rights. The telephone conversation that led to the fine was between a station employee and two airport officials, about a controversy concerning the local airport. As summarized in our original article about that decision, the alleged violation arose from a call by the station employee to the airport officials to talk about the local controversy. The employee allegedly identified himself as a station employee, and started to ask questions - without specifically stating that the call was being broadcast. Even though the airport officials kept talking once they knew that the call was being recorded, the FCC still fined the station $4000, finding that the violation occurred once the officials said "hello" on the phone without having been told beforehand that the call was being broadcast. The decision denying reconsideration is most notable for its long discussion of the First Amendment, which the station argued should override the FCC's rules against broadcasting a telephone conversation without prior permission.

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