Go to FCC.gov
FCC Logo - Return to the FCC Home Page  

Help | Advanced


Section 317 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 317, requires broadcasters to disclose to their listeners or viewers if matter has been aired in exchange for money, services or other valuable consideration. The announcement must be aired when the subject matter is broadcast. The Commission has adopted a rule, 47 C.F.R. § 73.1212, which sets forth the broadcasters' responsibilities to make this sponsorship identification

Section 507 of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 508, requires that, when anyone provides or promises to provide money, services or other consideration to someone to include program matter in a broadcast, that fact must be disclosed in advance of the broadcast, ultimately to the station over which the matter is to be aired.  Both the person providing or promising to provide the money, services or other consideration and the recipient are obligated to make this disclosure so that the station may broadcast the sponsorship identification announcement required by Section 317 of the Communications Act.  Failure to disclose such payment or the providing of services or other consideration, or promise to provide them, 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.

Thus, for example, if a record company or its agent pays a broadcaster to play records on the air, those payments do not violate these provisions of the law if the required sponsorship identification information is timely aired by the broadcast station. If it is not aired as required by the Communications Act and the Commission's rules, the station and others are subject to enforcement action.

If record companies, or their agents, are paying persons other than the broadcast licensee (such as the station's Music Director or its on-air personality) to have records aired, and fail to disclose that fact to the licensee, the person making such payments, and the recipient, are also subject to criminal fine, imprisonment or both, for violation of the disclosure requirements contained in Section 507.

Enforcement Actions

08-06-2019 Cumulus Radio LLC; Radio License Holding CBC, LLC; Cumulus Licensing LLC; and Radio License Holdings LLC (NAL)
12-21-2017 Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (NAL)
01-07-2016 Radio License Holding CBC, LLC (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
12-05-2014 Journal Broadcast Corporation (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
04-24-2014 Maverick Media of Rockford License LLC (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
02-10-2014 Radio License Holding XI, LLC, Chicago, Illinois (FORFEITURE ORDER)
07-29-2013 Regent Broadcasting of El Paso, Inc. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
02-03-2012 Radio License Holding XI, LLC (NAL)
07-22-2011 Emmis Austin Radio Broadcasting Company, L.P. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
07-08-2011 Fox Television Stations, Inc., KMSP-TV, Minneapolis, Minnesota (FORFEITURE ORDER)
03-24-2011 Fox Television Stations, Inc., KMSP-TV, Minneapolis, Minnesota (NAL)
03-24-2011 Access.1 New Jersey License Company, LLC, WMGM-TV, Wildwood, New Jersey (NAL)
12-16-2010 Tri-State public communications, Inc. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
09-29-2010 ACC Licensee, Inc., WJLA-TV, Washington, D.C. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
07-26-2010 Univision Radio, Inc. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
12-07-2009 Sonshine Family Television, Inc., WBPH-TV, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (FORFEITURE ORDER)
03-09-2009 6 Johnson Road Licenses, Inc. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
10-08-2008 QueenB Radio, Inc. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
10-18-2007 Sonshine Family Television, Inc., Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (NAL)
10-18-2007 The Graham Williams Group, Washington, D.C. (CITATION)
09-26-2007 Comcast Corporation (NAL)
09-21-2007 Comcast Corporation (NAL)
04-13-2007 Entercom Communications Corp. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
04-13-2007 Clear Channel Communications, Inc. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
04-13-2007 Citadel Broadcasting Corp. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
04-13-2007 CBS Radio, Inc. (ORDER & CONSENT DECREE)
12-22-2000 NORML Foundation, Washington, DC (LETTER)
10-12-2000 AMFM Radio Licenses, L.L.C., WKQI(FM), Detroit, Michigan (NAL)
10-12-2000 AMFM Radio Licenses, L.L.C., KHKS(FM), Denton, Texas (NAL)

How to File a Complaint

If you suspect a broadcaster has violated the sponsorship identification rule, you can file a complaint with the FCC. To assist the FCC in its review, the complaint should include the following:

  • Details of the content of the broadcast;
  • The date and time of the broadcast;
  • Why you believe that payment or other consideration was provided, requiring the airing of a sponsorship identification announcement;
  • The call sign of the broadcast station involved;
  • The fact that no sponsorship identification was aired; and
  • Any documents that you believe establish any of the foregoing.

Complaints should be sent to: Federal Communications Commission, Enforcement Bureau, Investigations & Hearings Division, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554.

last reviewed/updated on Wed Aug 7 13:30:31 EDT 2019

Skip FCC Footer and Contact InfoFederal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554
More FCC Contact Information...
Phone:  1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)
TTY:  1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
Fax:  1-866-418-0232
- Privacy Policy
- Website Policies & Notices
- Required Browser Plug-ins
- Freedom of Information Act