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FCC Cuts Infinity Fine For On-Air Phone Call

The FCC has knocked off $1,000 from a fine against Infinity Broadcasting for violating FCC rules against putting someone's phone conversation on the air without their knowledge.

In this case, it was a DJ who made sport of a customer service rep for the bankrupt Adelphia Cable.

The FCC had originally proposed fining the station $4,000, but reduced that to $3,000, citing Infinity's immediate suspension without pay of WBLK (FM) Buffalo, N.Y., personality Shae Moore, and a subsequent memo to staffers warning against putting anyone on without their permission.

According to the FCC account, the June 2002 conversation, which it said Infinity did not dispute, went like this:

"Shae Moore broadcast a telephone conversation with Brenda Tanner, an Adelphia customer service representative, without first notifying Ms. Tanner of her intention to broadcast the conversation. 

"According to Ms. Tanner’s complaint, which Infinity does not dispute, Ms. Moore posed as an Adelphia customer and did not reveal that the conversation would be on the air.  She began the conversation by asking if Adelphia, which had recently declared bankruptcy, really was bankrupt.  When Ms. Tanner confirmed the bankruptcy, Ms. Moore then asked several times if she still had to pay her cable bill.

" Ms. Tanner repeatedly told Ms. Moore that she had to do so, and referred her to Adelphia’s web site and another phone number.  Ms. Moore then asked if she could “bootleg” cable, to which Ms. Tanner reminded Ms. Moore that such behavior was illegal.  Ms. Moore then asked Ms. Tanner if she was going to lose her job, and laughed when Ms. Tanner said she hoped not.  At that point, Ms. Tanner told Ms. Moore that unless she had any real cable questions, she would end the call.  After Ms. Moore continued in this vein, Ms. Tanner hung up the call.  A few minutes later, Ms. Tanner received a call from an off-duty co-worker, who told her that her conversation with Ms. Moore was on the air. "

Infinity had argued the FCC should rescind the fine because it had used a similar unresolved complaint against another infinity station to counter Infinity's argument that the incident was isolated. It also pointed to the remedial actions. The FCC said it was within the law to cite the facts of the other case. It took off the $1,000 citing the remedial actions, but did not rescind the fine saying that this actions "cannot undo the damage to Ms. Tanner’s legitimate expectation of privacy that section."