The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is mulling over a $13.4 million fine against Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. for not identifying paid programming as such.
Sinclair, according to the FCC, produced and aired news-like stories for local broadcasters and slightly longer programs for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, but did not identify the programs as being paid for.
Technically, these are advertisements, says the FCC, and Sinclair aired them more than 1,700 times in 2016.
Sinclair is one of the largest owners of TV stations in the United States, which allowed it to air the advertisements across 64 of its own stations and 13 others not belonging to it.
These 13 stations were not informed that they were getting ads from Sinclair, said the FCC.
Predictably, the two Democratic commissioners dissented from the fine on Sinclair, but since the Republicans have a majority, it is likely to go through.
Sinclair will have 30 days to either dispute the proposed fine or to pay up.
On a different but related note, Sinclair is awaiting regulatory approval from the FCC for its acquisition of Tribune Media, its rival, and the reason that deal was made possible is because the FCC recently relaxed ownership rules for broadcasters.
On the matter of not properly identifying the content as being paid programming when providing it to the stations not owned by it, Sinclair has simply said: “Any absence of sponsorship identification in these public service segments was unintended and a result of simple human error.”
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