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FCC fines Sinclair for failing to identify sponsored programming

The Federal Communications Commission slapped Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. with a $13.4 million fine for failing to make the required disclosures related to programming sponsored by a third party.

The FCC said Dec. 21 that the programming was broadcast more than 1,700 times, "either as stories resembling independently generated news coverage that aired during the local news, or as longer-form stories aired as 30-minute television programs."

The proposed fine comes more than a year after the FCC received an anonymous complaint alleging that Sinclair had been airing segments about the Huntsman Cancer Institute without disclosing that the group had been paying for the programming. The FCC's enforcement bureau found that Sinclair and the foundation entered into an agreement wherein Sinclair produced and supplied programming to both Sinclair and non-Sinclair television stations.

"This programming promoted the foundation and the institute and included 60- to 90-second sponsored stories made to look like independently generated news coverage and 30-minute paid television programs," the FCC said.

Sinclair said in a statement that the fine was unreasonable and that it plans to challenge it.

"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," Sinclair said Dec. 21.