The FCC today confirmed that it is proposing a $13,376,200 fine against Sinclair Broadcast Group for failing to attach the required disclosures to programming sponsored by a third party.
The FCC accused Sinclair of airing 1,700 times programming “resembling independently generated news coverage that aired during the local news, or as longer-form stories aired as 30-minute television programs.”
“This is the largest fine that the Commission has ever proposed for a violation of its sponsorship identification rules,” the FCC said in a news release.
The proposed fine links back to an anonymous tip from April 2016 complaining that Sinclair had aired programming about the Huntsman Cancer Institute but did not disclose that the Institute had paid for the placement.
The FCC gave Sinclair 30 days to respond or pay the fine associated with the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture.
Sinclair today acknowledged the FCC’s action against it and vowed to challenge the proposed fine.
“Sinclair proudly supports the Cancer Foundation and its educational mission. Any absence of sponsorship identification in these public service segments was unintended and a result of simple human error. After working to reach a reasonable settlement, we are disappointed by this NAL, which we believe is unreasonable, given the circumstances of our case and the absence of any viewer harm. We disagree with the FCC’s action and intend to contest this unwarranted fine,” said Sinclair in a statement.
The FCC fine against Sinclair was first reported earlier this month by Reuters and, at the time, opponents to Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media used the fine as ammunition in the battle to have the merger blocked.
““The latest fine the FCC plans to levy against Sinclair just adds to the long list of evidence that the FCC-licensed broadcaster will not act in the public interest if its proposed merger with Tribune is approved,” said the Coalition to Save Local Media in a statement.