In late January, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Consent Decree penalizing Salem Media Group to the tune of $50,000 for “violat[ing] the FCC’s live broadcast rules by broadcasting prerecorded programming as ‘live’ without announcing before the broadcast that the programming was prerecorded.” In addition Salem has agreed to a three-year compliance plan to ensure the violation does not occur in the future.

The pertinent rule is Section 73.1208:

§73.1208   Broadcast of taped, filmed, or recorded material.

(a) Any taped, filmed or recorded program material in which time is of special significance, or by which an affirmative attempt is made to create the impression that it is occurring simultaneously with the broadcast, shall be announced at the beginning as taped, filmed or recorded. The language of the announcement shall be clear and in terms commonly understood by the public. For television stations, the announcement may be made visually or aurally.

(b) Taped, filmed, or recorded announcements which are of a commercial, promotional or public service nature need not be identified as taped, filmed or recorded.

To be clear, it is fine for a station to run a repeat of a show that was originally broadcast live or to delay the broadcast of a program recorded live – as long as the station announces at the beginning of the broadcast that it is recorded.  For instance, at the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – which is broadcast at 11:35 PM, but is usually recorded earlier in the evening – an announcer says it is “live on tape.”

For rebroadcasts of call-in programs, a common practice is an announcement at the beginning to the effect of: “this program was recorded previously, so we are taking no new calls.” Often simply saying “pre-recorded” at the beginning of the show will be sufficient.

If you are unsure of whether your specific program is compliant with the rules, contact your counsel.