Spanish Station WSKQ Slapped with $16,000 Fine for Prank Call in 2007

WSKQ, the radio station known as Mega 97.9 among its Spanish faithful, got nailed with a $16,000 fine by the FCC. At issue, the station called a woman on the air with a made up story about her husband being killed.

This incident took place nearly five years to the day of the ruling, August 23, 2007. Parent company Spanish Broadcasting System is also named in the FCC’s order.

As stated in the FCC forfeiture order, “WSKQ broadcast over the radio a prank call made by one of its employees to a member of the public.”

But that is only part of the problem. The station employee called a woman pretending to be someone from of a local hospital, telling the woman that her husband had been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. The phony hospital worker said the husband died.

“Further, according to the complaint, the call recipient could be heard over the radio distraught when she received this information, at which point the station employee informed her that the call was a ‘joke,'” the FCC ruled.

In March 2010, WSKQ contended they “violated no rule” because, as written by the FCC, the “plain  language” of the telephone broadcast rule makes it applicable only to recordings made by a licensee and not, as here, to recordings made by its contractor and vendor. The vendor in question is Ruben Ithier, (with the radio name Ramon Sierra) made the call that has resonated for several years.

Regardless of who made the call, it was recorded and played back on the station, and the FCC discredited the SBS defense saying, “We disagree with WSKQ’s contention that it did not violate the telephone broadcast rule… We find this line of argument to be meritless.”

The FCC adds: “WSKQ admits: ‘[T]he telephone call was initiated, as described, by Ramon Sierra, aka Ruben Ithier, the owner of a vendor with whom [SBS] contracted to create `caistes,’ which are calls made during WSKQ’s `El Vacilon’ morning show . . .  WSKQ had a segment called `Llamado cruel’ (‘cruel calls’ or `caistes’) during the El Vacilon morning show.’ It is further undisputed that the call recipient had not received prior notice that the call was being recorded for later broadcast.”