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FCC Prohibits Broadcast of False Information

Editor’s Note: The Federal Communications Commission forbids broadcast station licensees to knowingly transmit news concerning what it deems “hoaxes,” or “false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe.” Broadcasters are required to present a disclaimer before news programming that they know to be false.
Given the large number of dubious events over the past several years, particularly probable active shooter drills presented as real events, this theoretically means that many station owners might be in a bind if actual information came to light concerning such events.
In reality the FCC’s regulatory enforcement is lax and license holders may have plenty of wiggle room, especially if the programming originates from the parent network. The dominant culprits, cable news networks such as CNN and FoxNews, aren’t governed by the FCC.
From the FCC’s Website:

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:

  1. the licensee knows this information is false;
  2. it is foreseeable that broadcast of the information will cause substantial public harm; and
  3. broadcast of the information does in fact directly cause substantial public harm.

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