The Commission’s prohibition against the broadcast of hoaxes is set forth at Section 73.1217 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. § 73.1217.
This rule prohibits broadcast licensees or permittees from broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe if:
- the licensee knows this information is false;
- it is foreseeable that broadcast of the information will cause substantial public harm; and
- broadcast of the information does in fact directly cause substantial public harm.
Any programming accompanied by a disclaimer will be presumed not to pose foreseeable harm if the disclaimer clearly characterizes the program as a fiction and is presented in a way that is reasonable under the circumstances.
For purposes of this rule, “public harm” must begin immediately, and cause direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.
The public harm will be deemed foreseeable if the licensee could expect with a significant degree of certainty that public harm would occur.
A “crime” is any act or omission that makes the offender subject to criminal punishment by law.
A “catastrophe” is a disaster or imminent disaster involving a violent or sudden event affecting the public.
Complaints alleging violation of this rule should be sent to the Federal Communications Commission, Enforcement Bureau, Investigations & Hearings Division, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20554. Complaints should include the call sign and community of license of the station, the date and time of the broadcast(s) in question, and a detailed description of the public harm caused as a result of the broadcast. In addition, if possible, complaints should include a transcript or recording of the broadcast in question.