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Guide

Broadcasting False Information

Knowingly broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe may violate the rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Specifics of the FCC’s Rules

The FCC’s rules prohibit holders of broadcast licenses from broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe if:

  • the licensee knows the information is false; and
  • the licensee knows beforehand that broadcasting the information will cause substantial “public harm.” The public harm: (1) must begin immediately and cause direct and actual damage to property or the health or safety of the general public; or (2) divert law enforcement or public health and safety authorities from their duties.

Disclaimers

If a broadcast licensee uses a disclaimer that clearly characterizes the program as fiction, and the disclaimer is presented in a way that is reasonable under the circumstances, the program will be presumed not to pose foreseeable public harm.

How to File a Complaint with the FCC

You must include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible. To file a complaint, please visit www.fcc.gov/complaints. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) for TTY; or writing to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

For More Information

For information about other communications issues, visit the FCC’s Consumer website, or contact the FCC’s Consumer Center using the information provided for filing a complaint.

Print Out

Broadcasting False Information Guide (pdf)

Updated: October 29, 2014
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