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$15,000 FCC Fine Proposed for Underwriting Announcements that Were Too Commercial

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 7 Jul 2020 3:57 am

When do noncommercial stations stray from permissible acknowledgment of those local businesses that provide funding for its operations to impermissible commercials?  That question was addressed in a Notice of Apparent Liability issued by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau on Thursday, proposing a $15,000 fine for a low power FM station whose underwriting announcements were deemed too commercial.  The decision, which includes examples of the announcements deemed problematic, is must-reading for all noncommercial licensees who want to avoid fines from the FCC in connection with their underwriting acknowledgements for commercial entities.

The decision breaks down into four categories the reasons for finding the announcements in this case to be too promotional.  The first category is one that often arises in connection with these announcements – the underwriting announcement uses terms that make qualitative claims about the sponsor.  You can’t talk about a commercial sponsor being voted the “best” or being the “most experienced.”  Talking about mechanics who are “experts” in working on certain cars, or decorators who have “an exceptional eye for the perfect arrangement” are all examples of announcements that cross the line.  In this case, some of the examples of impermissible qualitative claims include a car repair shop with “certified master technicians” who use “state of the art equipment.”  Another was for a new real estate company that was characterized as being “one of the fastest growing real estate companies in the country” having “23 agents and a combined experience of over 300 years” and being a “national company with a local flair” having “recruited some of the most well-known agents.”  Another for a computer repair company was perhaps closer to the line but still was deemed too promotional, saying “don’t waste your time when you have a professional nerd to help make your life run easier” and “we’re not your average nerds.”  In some cases, like the last one, had it been the only identified issue, the FCC may have just determined that it was an exercise of licensee judgement about what was too promotional and let it go.  But in a case like this one, with so many other issues, it was identified as being a problem.

The second category of violations in this case was described as “using pricing language and/or offering inducements to do business.”  Underwriting announcements for commercial entities should not contain price information or information about sales (no “2 for 1” sales or “25% discounts for seniors on Tuesday” messages).  Some of the examples here were subtler, and not as price-focused – in some cases instead apparently focusing on the “inducements to do business.”  For a realty company, it appears that the FCC may have had concerns with a new realty partnership saying that they were formed “to further our involvement in the community and to help our friends and family sell their home and find their dream home.”  Another was clearer – an auto repair shop offering to take $30 off a repair bill if a customer donated $15 to a local charity.  Seemingly in the category of offering an inducement rather than specific price information was an announcement for a company that claimed to not just be a sponsor, but “also fans of the most wonderful music ever recorded.”  Again, that last one might have been overlooked had there not been so many other issues.

The third category of violations was one that does not often get too much attention – that being the inclusion in an underwriting announcement of “menu listings” (e.g., excessive arrayal) of products or services offered by the sponsor (though this issue and the fourth category were discussed in this case we wrote about in 2018 which imposed a $115,000 fine on a noncommercial station for underwriting violations).  What the FCC has said in the past is that an underwriting announcement can identify the sponsor and generally say what its business is, but it should not be overly inclusive in its listing of the products and services offered by the business.  So saying that you are a furniture store is permissible, but listing all the brands that your store carries likely creates an issue.  In this case, a message for a steakhouse that included the following description of products and services was deemed too much: “a nine-ounce large filet mignon or the Cattlemen’s 20oz club steak…. their basic burger, mushroom burger, bronco burger, and house patty melt…. with any entree, you get combo chicken, shrimp, or rack ribs. Banquet facilities and private rooms available.”  Another restaurant offering “carne asada, spicy coconut red curry lobster, chicken fried ribeye, beef tenderloin scallops, smoked pork chops, a cubano sandwich, a bison burger, a lamb burger, and a variety of soups and salads” was also deemed to be a problem.  Similar issues were found with an announcement for a computer services company offering help “with virus removal, hardware, computer repair, software tech support, data recovery, computer service, laptop computer repair, network computer support, and business tech support….[they] cover any make or model of computer servers, desktops, laptops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones, game devices, personal data assistance, and cameras, printers, and scanners.”  The take-away – keep the description of the products or services short and general.

The final issue was a concern about underwriting announcements that were more than 30 seconds long.  It is hard to provide the examples here as there is no audio in the FCC decision – and the text of the announcements identified as being problematic don’t readily show their length.  But, the FCC has in the past suggested that the bare acknowledgment of a sponsor and a brief statement of what they do with some general location data or a website address or phone number – without a call to action saying to visit the sponsor or any of the other problems identified here – should not take long.  In at least one case (see our post here) the FCC has had problems with an overly produced underwriting announcement that was too long and just sounded too hyped – even if the language of the announcement itself was within permissible boundaries.  So here, the message is to be cautious – if it sounds too much like it could be a commercial, the FCC may well think that it is.  And, certainly, do not exceed 30 seconds in length – and even shorter is better.

We’ve suggested before that underwriting announcements should be kind of boring – just the facts – and keep them short.  We have received some pushback from underwriting managers at noncommercial stations about that advice to be boring.  It was suggested that a better way to characterize it is that announcements should be informational not promotional.  No matter how it is characterized, noncommercial stations should be careful.  Commercial competitors and others can be listening and, as this case shows, if there are issues raised, the FCC is not hesitant to ask questions and issue fines.  Talk to your station’s attorney about the issues that can arise in underwriting so that your station is not the next one to receive this kind of notice from the FCC.

Transfiguración: decolonizing AI, in Hexorcismos’ shamanistic music and art

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Mon 6 Jul 2020 11:57 am

Meet technoshamanism - a counterbalance to AI's use in state and corporate control and surveillance. Hexorcismos is transforming technology into something mystical - and producing beautiful images and music, at once both ancient and futuristic.

The post Transfiguración: decolonizing AI, in Hexorcismos’ shamanistic music and art appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

This Week at the FCC for Broadcasters – June 27, 2020 to July 3, 2020

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Sat 4 Jul 2020 8:57 pm

Here are some of the FCC actions of the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau entered into negotiated settlements with two Boston-area pirate radio operators who admitted to illegal operations and agreed to pay civil fines, to dispose of their broadcast equipment and to not commit—or help anyone else commit—acts of radio piracy for twenty years. In one case, the FCC last year initially proposed a fine of $151,005 fine for the illegal operation.  After examining the operator’s finances, the Bureau agreed to a $4,000 fine now, with a penalty of $75,000 should the operator violate the law again (Radio Concorde).  In the second case, the FCC had proposed a $453,015 fine last year, but agreed to take $5,000 now, with penalty of $225,000 if the operator violates the terms of the consent decree (Radio TeleBoston Consent Decree).  Last year, we wrote on the Broadcast Law Blog about the fines initially proposed for these two operators.
  • The Enforcement Bureau also issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for $15,000 to an LPFM licensee for violating FCC rules prohibiting non-commercial educational broadcast stations from airing commercial advertisements. The Bureau alleges that more than 1,600 advertisements improperly promoted the products, services, or businesses of at least 14 financial contributors.  The Bureau said the announcements were “clearly promotional” by referring to qualitative claims about the underwriters and their products, by providing price information or an overly extensive list of the products or services provided by the companies, or by providing underwriting acknowledgments that were more than 30 seconds long. Noncommercial licensees looking to make sure their announcements comply with FCC rules should read the full FCC decision, which includes the text of the prohibited announcements.  (Notice of Apparent Liability).  Look for more on this decision next week in the Broadcast Law Blog.
  • The FCC this week told its staff that it will not be returning to the building that has been its headquarters for the last 20 years and that they will continue to telework until at least August 27, when the move to the new headquarters building should be complete. See the Broadcast Law Blog for more details on the FCC’s move.

Looking ahead, last week we posted on the Broadcast Law Blog our look at broadcast regulatory dates and deadlines for July.  There is a lot to stay on top of this month, including the July 10 deadline for Quarterly Issues Programs lists for the first and second quarters of this year to be uploaded to the public file of all radio and TV stations, the end of the TV repack, Children’s Television reports due dates, EEO reporting, a new deadline for uploading information about MVPD carriage election information to the public file, an LPTV settlement window, and due dates for rulemaking comments in various proceedings.

Josh Pyke, the Veronicas, Lime Cordiale and more: Australian music for isolated times

Delivered... Guardian Staff | Scene | Sat 4 Jul 2020 12:00 am

Each week we add 15 (or so) new songs to a Spotify playlist to soundtrack your physical distancing amid coronavirus – and help artists you love get paid


As some states begin to slowly open back up, Australia’s arts industry is still largely in lockdown – and the music industry was hit harder, and earlier, than most others. But until large gatherings and gigs happen again, there are small things you can do: it’s an imperfect solution, but streaming Australian music can help.

Each week, in partnership with Sounds Australia, Guardian Australia will add some 15 new songs to a playlist for you to put on repeat.

Related: Drive-in concerts: music to the ears of audience- (and cash-) starved bands

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The Sneaker to Unite Them All: An Exclusive Look at the deadHYPE x Adidas ZX 8000 Digital Lookbook

Delivered... Ekaterina Kachavina | Scene | Fri 3 Jul 2020 5:11 pm

There’s a funny thing about the internet these days: Every subculture can be accessed online. From Hypebeast forums to TikTok Eboys and EGirls—or the more leftfield furry fandoms and flat earthers on Reddit—it can seem like the underground isn’t quite so elusive and site-specific as it once used to be. Bernard Koomson, a 30-year-old cultural consultant originally from England, is fascinated by how...

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Pairing Mode: Here are the music releases to hear right now, including some unsung gems

Delivered... David Abravanel | Scene | Fri 3 Jul 2020 4:58 pm

Channeling pain and ecstasy, from dance and avant-garde and genres newly brewed, Abadir to Cinthie to Lamin Fofana to patten to Pole, summer brings more spectacular ways to fill your hard drives and souls with music.

The post Pairing Mode: Here are the music releases to hear right now, including some unsung gems appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Denai Moore: Modern Dread review – hypnotic, surrealist bid for freedom

Delivered... Timi Sotire | Scene | Fri 3 Jul 2020 9:00 am

(Because Music)
Moore’s genre-blending electronic pop is an unsettling exploration of isolation and selfhood in an over-connected age

In her previous releases Elsewhere and We Used to Bloom, British-Jamaican artist Denai Moore incorporated R&B, folk and electronic influences, positioning her sound as having no boundaries. For her third album, her genre-blending tracks explore the paradoxical isolation that arises in an age when we are supposedly more connected than ever.

Continue reading...

Denai Moore: Modern Dread review – hypnotic, surrealist bid for freedom

Delivered... Timi Sotire | Scene | Fri 3 Jul 2020 9:00 am

(Because Music)
Moore’s genre-blending electronic pop is an unsettling exploration of isolation and selfhood in an over-connected age

In her previous releases Elsewhere and We Used to Bloom, British-Jamaican artist Denai Moore incorporated R&B, folk and electronic influences, positioning her sound as having no boundaries. For her third album, her genre-blending tracks explore the paradoxical isolation that arises in an age when we are supposedly more connected than ever.

Continue reading...

Ode to the Night: A Funeral Party for the First Neoliberal City

Delivered... Ekaterina Kachavina | Scene | Fri 3 Jul 2020 8:47 am

If the police come, just cooperate and do whatever they tell you to do,” the door girl said as she stamped my wrist—a line I had never heard before at the club 宀 (pronounced “Mihn”). It had been four months since I last went out because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Once I stepped inside, the room was thick with sweat and recognition. This was DJ Mr. Ho’s first time playing at Host’s monthly queer...

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Hypnospace Outlaw is set in a weird 90s fake Internet – and it has its own music sequencer

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 2 Jul 2020 8:04 pm

It's difficult to find an escape when pandemic and political unrest confine you to an Internet overwhelmed with the same. So - just use a fake Internet. With a fake 90s music sequencer and page builder. Seriously.

The post Hypnospace Outlaw is set in a weird 90s fake Internet – and it has its own music sequencer appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Beck’s greatest songs – ranked!

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Thu 2 Jul 2020 3:00 pm

As the prince of American alternative turns 50, we select his finest moments, from bluegrass ballads to breakup masterpieces and ‘beefcake pantyhose’

Beck’s most recent album, Hyperspace, was a missed opportunity, a gorgeously produced modern R&B album with barely any strong tunes. But See Through is good – its wash of synths paired with a staccato chorus makes it evocative of Swae Lee.

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Beck’s greatest songs – ranked!

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Thu 2 Jul 2020 3:00 pm

As the prince of American alternative turns 50, we select his finest moments, from bluegrass ballads to breakup masterpieces and ‘beefcake pantyhose’

Beck’s most recent album, Hyperspace, was a missed opportunity, a gorgeously produced modern R&B album with barely any strong tunes. But See Through is good – its wash of synths paired with a staccato chorus makes it evocative of Swae Lee.

Continue reading...

ACL FEST 2021 DATES HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED

Delivered... Spacelab - Independent Music and Media | Scene | Wed 1 Jul 2020 8:30 pm
Indie music, country, folk, rock and electronic music in Zilker Park!

ACL FEST 2020 HAS BEEN CANCELED

Delivered... Spacelab - Independent Music and Media | Scene | Wed 1 Jul 2020 7:00 pm
Get the details on how to handle tickets and what to do for rescheduling.

This Rotterdam Exhibition Explores the Emotion at the Intersection of Art and Music

Delivered... whitney | Scene | Wed 1 Jul 2020 4:53 pm

Philip Topolovac, I’ve Never Been to Berghain, 2016 Cork model © Philip Topovolac/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019 At Kunsthal Rotterdam, there’s no fear of a “Heute leider nicht” from the notorious Sven Marquardt and his formidable posse of Berghain gate-keepers. For the museum’s first post-lockdown exhibition, entitled Black Album / White Cube, the roles have switched. Now it’s the observers that assume...

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