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FCC Fines Stations Over Armstrong

The FCC last week fined 10 stations a total of $76,000 for violating its sponsorship identification rules by airing Armstrong Williams’ Department of Education-funded plugs for its No Child Left Behind initiative in 2003.

But Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns nine of those 10 stations, says it doesn’t plan to pay the fine and will challenge it in court.

The commission fined Sonshine-owned WBPH-TV Bethlehem, Pa., $40,000 and nine Sinclair stations a total of $36,000 for airing shows with Williams’ plug in the program.

In Sonshine’s case, it accepted $100 for each show it aired, but did not identify that arrangement.

Sinclair was cited for airing political programming supplied by an outside source without identifying the source. The FCC said that also violates its sponsorship ID rules.

Sinclair’s VP and general counsel, Barry Faber, says the company won’t pay the fine. The complaint against the stations was made by Free Press, a media watchdog group.

“Free Press, and apparently the FCC is in agreement, is trying to shoehorn things that shouldn’t be covered by these rules into these rules,” Faber says.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.