Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Armstrong Of The Law

Does Michael Powell really care about the rule of law? We shall see:

Section 317 of the Communications Act, as amended, 47 U.S.C. [section]317 requires broadcasters to disclose that matter has been broadcast in exchange for money, service or other valuable consideration. The announcement must be made when the subject matter is broadcast. The Commission has adopted a rule, 47 C.F.R. [section] 73.1212, which sets forth the broadcasters' responsibilities for sponsorship identification.

Section 507 of the Communications Act, as amended, 47 U.S.C. [section] 508 requires that when anyone pays someone to include program matter in a broadcast, the fact of payment must be disclosed in advance of the broadcast to the station over which the mater [sic] is to be carried. Both the person making the payment and the recipient are obligated to disclose the payment so that the station may make the sponsorship identification announcement required by Section 317 of the Act. Failure to disclose such payments is commonly referred to as "payola" and is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year or both. These criminal penalties bring violations within the purview of the Department of Justice....

Complaints should be sent to: Federal Communications Commission, Enforcement Bureau, Investigations & Hearing Division, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554.
The FCC Commissioners' e-mail addresses.

My letter to the Tit-Monitor:

Dear Commissioner Powell:

Credible evidence has come to my attention that two individuals, namely, Armstrong Williams and Secretary of Education Rod Paige have violated 47 U.S.C. 508, which prohibits "payola." Please refer these matters to the Justice Department and insist that Attorney General Ashcroft or his successor prosecute these criminal acts.

Specifically, Mr. Williams accepted from Mr. Paige or his Department at least $240,000 to broadcast matter (propaganda regarding the "No Child Left Behind" Act) without disclosing the payment to the stations on which the matter was broadcast. It appears that neither Mr. Williams nor Mr. Paige disclosed this information to the stations.

Per your request, I provide the following information:

(1) The call letters of the station: According to Mr. Williams' website, the following broacast stations are involved: WTTO - Birmingham, Alabama; WEAR - Mobile, Alabama; KOVR - Sacramento, California; WTCN - Tampa, Florida; WYZZ - Bloomington, Illinois; WICD - Champaign, Illinois; WICS, Decatur - Illinois; WIWU - Marion, Indiana; KGAN - Cedar Rapids, Iowa; KDSM - Des Moines, Iowa; WDKY - Lexington, Kentucky; WGME - Portland, Maine; WBFF - Baltimore, Maryland; WNUV - Baltimore, Maryland; WGGB - Springfield, Massachusetts; WSMH - Bay City, Michigan; WUHF - Rochester, New York; WSYT - Syracuse, New York; KVWB - Las Vegas, Nevada; KEBT - Las Vegas, Nevada; WLOS - Ashville, North Carolina; WXLV - Greensboro, North Carolina; WUPN - Greensboro, North Carolina; WGME - Greensboro, North Carolina; WLFL - Raliegh-Durham, North Carolina; WSTV - Cincinnati, Ohio; WSTR - Cleveland, Ohio; WSYX - Columbus, Ohio; WKEF - Dayton, Ohio; WRGT - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; WBPH - Allentown, Pennsylvania; WPGH - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; WLOS - Anderson, South Carolina; WTAT - Charleston, South Carolina; WPDE - Conway, South Carolina; WZTV - Nashville, Tennessee; KABB - San Antonio, Texas; WRLH - Richmond, Virginia; WAZT - Woodstock, Virginia; WVAH - Charelston, West Virginia; WCHS - Huntington, West Virginia; WVAH - Hungtington, West Virginia; WMSN - Madison, Wisconsin; WVTV - Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

(2) the city and state where the station is located: See above.

(3) a tape or other documentation showing the failure to provide the required sponsorship identification: See, among other sources, U.S.A. Today, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. Unless Mr. Williams and Mr. Paige disclosed these payments to the above-referenced television stations (which does not appear to be the case) or the foregoing articles are inaccurate, it appears the law has been violated. I believe that, according to the FCC's definition of payola, the nondisclosure to each station constitutes a separate violation which requires imposition of a separate fine and term of incarceration.

(4) documentation (e.g., copies of agreements, memoranda or other written documents) demonstrating that the broadcast material in question was broadcast in exchange for payment to the station or to an employee of the station: See above. (Note that subdivision (b) of 47 U.S.C. 508 does not require the recipient of the payola to be a station or employee of the station.)

I look forward to your prompt, personal response to this e-mail. This is potentially a criminal matter. Given your reputation for the enforcement of broadcasting laws for the protection of the public, your failure to act on this matter could only be seen as a gross dereliction of your duties to America and its families.

Sincerely, etc.

cc: FCC Commissioners
Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Dept. of Justice

Anyone should feel free to send their own copy of this e-mail to the FCC. It's WLBBWD.

(Inspired by TAPped.)

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