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FCC proposes fine for New York FM station after bogus death notice

source: wikimedia commonsA radio station that staged a prank call to a New York woman claiming that her husband had been badly hurt in a motorcycle accident, then died in a hospital, has received a proposed fine of $16,000 from the Federal Communications Commission.

Here’s an excerpt from the August 2007 exchange:

“Mr. Ithier: Juliana, oh, oh I’m so sorry he just died right now.
Call Recipient: (crying)
Mr. Ithier: I will, Juliana I want to ask you something. Just two or three questions
please. I can’t hear you.
Call Recipient: What?
Mr. Ithier: So this is for when you come here you don’t have to ask too many
questions when you identify him.
Call Recipient: No, no, I’m going over there right now.”

“Although we exercise discretion in this instance in not imposing a higher forfeiture, we warn the Licensee that future violations of this nature may result in harsher enforcement action, including license revocation proceedings,” the FCC told station WSKQ-FM in New York City (“La Mega 97.9”) on Friday.

As far as I’m concerned, the FCC should revoke WSKQ’s license now.  People have heart attacks on hearing news like this. What if she  had been on a mobile phone and had a car accident?

But WSKQ got dinged on a technicality, allegedly violating “the telephone broadcast rule.”  Section 73.1206 of the agency’s rules stipulate that, “before broadcasting or recording a telephone conversation for later broadcast, a licensee must inform any party to the call of its intention to broadcast the conversation.”

It gets even weirder:  the third party vendor (“Rubin Ithier”) who pulled this stunt in August of 2007 for the Spanish Broadcasting System owned station apparently did this at the husband’s request. No comment on that aspect of the story. The prank was broadcast on WSKQ twice, according to the FCC. Here’s a full transcript of the exchange.

Mr. Ithier: Can I speak with Ms. Juliana please?
Call Recipient: Who is this?
Mr. Ithier: The Doctor Raymond Martinez, I’m just calling from [bleeped out]
Hospital
Call Recipient: Aha? Yes Juliana
Mr. Ithier: Do you know anybody with the name Luis, Luis Miguel?
Call Recipient: Yes
* * * * *
Mr. Ithier: OK, this person had an accident in mid afternoon.
Call Recipient: OK
Mr. Ithier: on a motorcycle.
Call Recipient: How is he? How is he?
Mr. Ithier: He cannot move his hands, he can’t move his arms, he suffered because
he was not wearing his helmet. He suffered, a, a on his neck.
Call Recipient: Aha
Mr. Ithier: And, he can’t yet but the problem is that we need a blood transfusion.
Call Recipient: A blood transfusion?
Mr. Ithier: Yes, he needs blood because it is possible that he might even loose his
sight, he is not a complete vegetable but we need a blood transfusion.
Call Recipient: Oh my God! OK, OK. Uhmm! Who am I speaking to?
Mr. Ithier: Raymond Martinez.
* * * * *
[The Call Recipient hands over the phone to a friend who proceeds to ask Mr. Ithier additional
questions.]
Mr. Ithier: Right now he is on the operation table, because, on his neck he suffered a
fracture, very serious.
Call Recipient’s Friend: OK, but he is stable?
Mr. Ithier: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think he’ll make it. I don’t think he’ll make
it. Can I speak with Julian, Juliana please? I feel like you, you are
interrogating me or something like that.
Call Recipient’s Friend: No, it’s that she is not well and doesn’t know how to explain what they
told her about Luis. That’s why I wanted to call.

Mr. Ithier: Give me a second, give me a second, here comes the doctor, one minute,
hold on one second. Yeah doctor, what happened? On no, do I have to
say that? No, no, no, ay.
Call Recipient’s Friend: Yeah?
Mr. Ithier: Oh my God! He died. I’m so sorry. Too late!
Call Recipient’s Friend: Excuse me?
Mr. Ithier: He died, he died already. That’s what the doctor just told me now. So if
you want to stop by here to pick up or identify the body or something.
Hello?
Call Recipient: (can be heard crying in the background)
* * * * *
[Call Recipient’s Friend then hands over the phone to the Call Recipient]
Call Recipient: Hello?
Mr. Ithier: Juliana, oh, oh I’m so sorry he just died right now.
Call Recipient: (crying)
Mr. Ithier: I will, Juliana I want to ask you something. Just two or three questions
please. I can’t hear you.
Call Recipient: What?
Mr. Ithier: So this is for when you come here you don’t have to ask too many
questions when you identify him.
Call Recipient: No, no, I’m going over there right now.
Mr. Ithier: OK, ah, Juliana?
Call Recipient: Yes
Mr. Ithier: OK, you listen to El Vacilon de la Manana?
(Ithier’s cohort): Ayh No!
Call Recipient: Yes
Mr. Ithier: Well this was a joke mami. He is alive and kicking.
Call Recipient: Your [bleeped out] kidding me! (and then hangs up)
Mr. Ithier: Hello? Why are people always hanging up on me?


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