Radio Ink is reporting that the FCC issued a notice of apparent liability to Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS), with two separate forfeitures of $16,000 for recording a prank phone call for broadcast without the recipient’s knowledge or permission.
On July 19, 2007, Ruben Ithier, an independent contractor working with SBS’s El Vacilón de la Mañana radio morning show, called a woman claiming to be a hospital employee. He told her that her husband had been murdered and her daughter had been killed by a car. When the woman became hysterical — the FCC transcript cites “crying, screaming, inaudible conversation” — Ithier said the call was a joke.
The stations admitted that the call, which was broadcast twice, was made at the request of the recipient’s sister. Normally, the airing of an unauthorized phone conversation carries a $4,000 fine, but the FCC raised it to $16,000 for each station that broadcast it, because it aired twice and the fact that SBS has a “history of violating the commission’s rules.”
Now, I have to ask, what the heck were they thinking? In what right mind does calling someone to tell them two of their most loved relatives have died constitutes a joke?