Commission issues payola fact sheet

The FCC in mid-June released a fact sheet on its Web site advising the public and the news media on the commission’s payola rules.

The publication states the commission’s payola rules as bulleted items, and provides the public with instructions on what to do if they believe a station has violated the rules. The rules are devoid of any legalese and written to be easily understood. For instance, the fact sheet says:

“Any broadcast station employee who has accepted or agreed to accept payment for the airing of program material, or the person making or promising to make the payment, must disclose this information to the station prior to the airing of the program.”

The fact sheet advises the public on what details to include when filing a payola complaint with the commission.

The commission placed payola on the front burner after receiving complaints that television broadcast newsrooms were using corporate and government video news releases without disclosing their sources. Unattributed video news releases (VNRs) are seen as payola because they violate rules requiring broadcasters to disclose that they have received something of value in exchange for airing material. Given the costs of production, VNRs are regarded by the commission as having value.

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