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John Garziglia

Legal Issues

Legal Issues

John F. Garziglia is a Communications Law Attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Washington, DC and can be reached at (202) 857-4455 or Have a question for our "Ask The Attorney" feature? Send to

Are You Risking A Marvin Gaye-Type Fine?

Are You Risking A Marvin Gaye-Type Fine?

When you read that Marvin Gaye's estate won a $7.3M judgment for copyright infringement against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for wrongfully appropriating elements of Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" in Thickes and Williams' Blurred Lines, did you worry at all that your station might be at risk of a similar situation? Are all of your bases covered? While the Marvin Gaye side litigation involved songs, misappropriation due to a substantial similarity can extend to just about any copyrighted work. Let's be sure this never happens to you, and for that we turn to broadcast attorney John Garziglia...

Will Bones be Fined or Suspended?

Will Bones be Fined or Suspended?

Yesterday we told you about how EAS tones that were traced back to the syndicated Bobby Bones show last Friday triggered the Emergency Alert System in several states. Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates Bones, released this statement on Monday: "The tone should not have aired. We are cooperating fully with the authorities and are taking aggressive action to investigate this incident and prevent it from recurring. We deeply regret the error." There is also no word of any suspensions as of yet as a result of the tones being aired. The FCC does have a rule about airing the EAS tones and we turn to Broadcast Attorney John Garziglia for an explanation so you know exactly what to tell your people.

When You Owe a Candidate Free Airtime and When You Don't

When You Owe a Candidate Free Airtime and When You Don't

Yesterday we told you about Republican incumbent Clayton Fiscus (pictured) who says because his opponent John Pulasky reads the weather on KATL-AM, he deserves an equal amount of time from the station to campaign. KATL station manager Donald Richard says that's not going to happen because Billings isnt part of the area in which KATL provides city-grade service, neither is the legislative district for which Fiscus and Pulasky are competing. To find out if KATL was safe in denying Fiscus airtime we turned to broadcast attorney John Garziglia and asked him if the radio station is required to grant Fiscus free airtime because his opponent reads the weather on KATL. Here's what Garziglia found out...

SoundExchange Wants You to Pay More

SoundExchange Wants You to Pay More

As John Garziglia points out in the previous story, broadcasters are now paying $0.0023 per performance, with a minimum of $500 per year. In its filing with the Copyright Royalty Board SoundExchange proposes the rate, beginning in 2016, should be $0.0025 per performance and escalate up every year, or be 55% of revenue, whichever is greater. The NAB is fighting to lower the rates. Most broadcasters say they are not making any money on streaming today and higher rates could force them to abandon streaming altogether.

Streaming. Where Do We Go From Here?

Streaming. Where Do We Go From Here?

How much you pay to stream over the Internet will be determined over the next year. As you've been reading this week, filings with the Copyright Royalty Board have begun. The NAB is fighting on your behalf, which includes a special consideration request for those of you in the smaller markets. The questions that remain are: What happens now? How closely do you need to watch this? What should you do, if anything, to express your opinion? For answers to those questions and to sort out the entire royalty issue moving forward, we turned to broadcast attorney John Garziglia.

The Lesson's of the Kansas City Lawsuit

The Lesson's of the Kansas City Lawsuit

(by John Garziglia) Successful radio personalities need to be creative geniuses. One has to be a genius to create three or four hours of engaging, fast-paced, entertaining content five days a week. They also need to be smart enough to know when a bit is potentially defamatory. When Kansas City morning personalities Alfentra and Danny Boi asked listeners whether they knew of any local porn stars, it arguably had the creative potential to be both funny and defamatory.

Does SiriusXM Decision Mean Anything For You?

Does SiriusXM Decision Mean Anything For You?

(by John Garziglia) Paying performers and record companies performance fees for radio station broadcasts -- we all know that is a hot topic in Congress. The NAB and broadcasters have for several years stalled attempts in Congress to levy performance fees on terrestrial broadcast stations while every other form of quasi-radio, from satellite radio to internet broadcasting, pays performance fees. But, is it possible that the California Flo & Eddie decision possibly foretells coming legal challenges to terrestrial radios blanket exemption from paying performance fees for pre-1972 recordings?

FCC Denies Tell City Waiver

FCC Denies Tell City Waiver

The FCC Media Bureau's Audio Division has denied an application to move the transmitter for an FM translator, now assigned to Way Media, to a new site in Tell City, IN, to rebroadcast the signal of WTCJ-AM, licensed to Hancock Communications.The new location would not have overlapped with WTCJ's existing 60 dB contour. The parties asked for the waiver to allow the move with a minor change application, and, if that were granted, to reassign the translator to Hancock. The waiver, if granted, would have made it a great deal easier for AMs in general to acquire and move FM translators -- a fact that the Audio Division cited in its rejection of the move. Attorney John Garziglia calls the denial "an elevation of dated FCC procedures over the public interest."

What Are the Chances the FCC Sides With Banzhaf?

What Are the Chances the FCC Sides With Banzhaf?

According to broadcast attorney John Garziglia Banzhaf may have to wait until 2019 to go after radio stations for using the word "Redskin" on the air. Garziglia reminds us that most radio renewals have been completed by the FCC and the next round does not come up for another five years. There is one station that he still might be able to go after, and that's owned by Snyder's Red Zebra Broadcasting, WWXX-FM in Buckland Virginia. Here's what Garziglia has to say about Banzhaf's chances to win against radio using the word.

Charging for news coverage? How would the FCC look at that?

Charging for news coverage?  How would the FCC look at that?

by John Garziglia Charging for news coverage -- dollars for stories sounds like something that shocks the conscience. A Nogales radio station is alleged to have charged its Nogales city government for positive news interviews about its municipal performance. What, if any, might be an FCC violation here and does the city of Nogales have any valid FCC complaint because the radio station levied charges for paid news interviews?

Pandora To FCC: Consider A Rule Change For Us

Pandora To FCC: Consider A Rule Change For Us

On Tuesday, the FCC posted this Public Notice regarding Pandora's planned purchase of Connoisseur's KXMZ-FM in South Dakota. The sticking point for this sale is Pandora's inability to prove foreign ownership is less than 25 percent. Pandora has told the FCC that it believes it complies with the rule, however due to SEC shareholder privacy regulations, it cannot be sure. Pandora is asking for a ruling that will allow foreign investors to hold up to a 49.99 percent voting interest and 100 percent equity interest in the company. To help us break this request down, we turned to Broadcast Attorney John Garziglia.

The Things Employees Do

The Los Angeles Nielsen PPM ratings were delayed for over a week, all because a media�affiliated household took part in the Los Angeles sample. In other words, a radio station employee likely did something that was against the better interests of his or her employer.

On The Matter Of Slander

Radio Ink asks: What responsibility does a radio station have when it plays a role in damaging someone's reputation, even if by mistake? John Garziglia responds:... Seven second delay up and running? Check. Call screener in place? Check. Errors and omissions insurance premium paid? Check. Call finally coming in from Shane Spencer, former New York Yankees outfielder? Check. What? After the interview is broadcast, someone claiming to be the real Shane Spencer is now on the line? Oops!

FCC Protects You From Yourself April 1st

Monday is the first day of April, known as April Fools Day to some. Broadcasting is a unique business. After all, in what other business would it be deemed funny to play April Fools jokes on customers. Think if you were the butt of the joke while eating a restaurant meal (surprise, its not really edible - barf!), or fueling your car (boom!).

Back To The Future

We go to conferences to hear seminars about it. Countless people blog about it. And more than a few water cooler confabs have taken it up as the subject of the moment. We study the technology for clues. Follow the relevant legislation. And we wonder if financial statements offer the biggest clues. We're talking about the future of radio, of course. And it's our good fortune to have broadcast attorney John Garziglia to give us a clear peek through the keyhole.

Phone Rules? Is There Any Flexibility?

The FCC has been laying down hammer quite a bit lately when it comes to violating the telephone broadcast rule. We wanted to test the waters a bit with broadcast attorney John Garziglia to see if there was any flexibility with the rule. So we asked, "What if a caller is recorded (without their knowing), then, after the call, they are told it was recorded?" The caller says, "Okay fine, air it," which is also on tape. Then, the person files an FCC complaint.

Are You Liable When Interns Get Hurt?

You've probably heard about the incident in Nashville where radio station intern Adam Davis, participating in a promotion, was catapulted into the boards of an ice hickey rink breaking his leg. The intern is suing the NHL's Nashville Predators for "not providing adequate protection" for Davis. The incident made us wonder what your liability would be in a similar situation. So we asked broadcast attorney John Garziglia, If an unpaid intern is injured in a station promotion with one of your clients what is your liability?

Should You Care About TV's Public File Fight

TV broadcasters are aggressively fighting the FCC's requirement that television station local public files be put online. Three days ago, the National Association of Broadcasters filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking an injunction against the FCC to keep the August 2, 2012, effective date for such online posting from occurring.

Supremes Ignore Ownership Issue. So?

Of course the big Supreme Court news last week was health care, however, there was a bit of media news that came out as the Court wrapped up. The Court refused to review the FCCs ownership limits. Should you care?

What Are Your Legal Liabilities of Internships?

One of our readers had a question about bringing interns, independent contractors and other outsiders. What are the legal liabilities of a station for having internships, independent contractors, and the like, involved with the operations of a radio station...and how can a station protect itself from such liabilities? We turned that question over to broadcast attorney John Garziglia in our weekly "Ask The Attorney" feature.

If An Agent Came Knocking Would You Be Ready?

Earlier in the week we reported that WFBX in North Carolina was hit with an $8K fine. The station EAS equipment was not operational and that's a big price to pay for any station these days. You never know when an FCC inspector will walk through your front door to conduct an inspection of your EAS equipment. The deer-in-the-headlights look will probably not be the right response. Do you think everyone in your building can perform a test and log that test? Do you, as the manager of the station or a cluster of stations feel confident every station can pass an inspection? Do you know what to do if the equipment fails? Just in case you are not clear on what to, we asked attorney John Garziglia to lay it out for everyone.

What if Your Headline Act Bails?

You've heard about the story by now. Niki Minaj got her feelings hurt after a HOT 97 DJ said something negative about one of her songs. As a result, she decided she wasn't going to honor her commitment at the HOT 97 Summer Jam. We asked broadcast attorney John Garziglia about the liability, if any, the station has to the listeners when they pay for a ticket and several acts drop out at the last minute due to something the station did. Can concert goers ask for refunds?

What Are The Rules on Spirits Advertising?

There was a time that beer was the only alcoholic beverage being advertised anywhere. Now, you see alcohol of all kinds being advertised everywhere. That prompted a GM to send us a question about the rules to advertise spirits. Are there any anymore? Do you have to watch what you say in an ad? Here's broadcast attorney John Garziglia with the answer.

Do You Need File Political Rates Online?

There's a lot of discussion between TV and the government about political rates and filing those rates online with a TV station's public file. TV is worried about posting the rates for everyone to see and their is also concern about the possibility of collusion. So we asked broadcast attorney John Garziglia the following question: What should radio stations know about getting political rate information in an online public file?

What About Those Auto Dealer Disclaimers?

We hear them every day, well we sort of hear them. Those disclaimers at the end of the automotive commercials, some that are read so fast or so low nobody can really understand them. Do they have to be run? Should listeners be able to understand them? We sent those questions to broadcast attorney John Garziglia.

How To Deal With an FCC Fine

What if you are fined for a public file violation. What is the best way to deal with the FCC on the matter? What should you avoid doing? What can you do if you are found to be in violation and hope to get the FCC to forgive you of the fine. What if this is your first and only offense? We took all of those questions to broadcast attorney John Garziglia.

What Are The Public File Rules?

A Radio Ink Reader asks: "I would like clarification on the Public Issues. We keep a log of each show that airs on our stations and generate a public issues list that identifies issues important to the community within our city of license. But I am now getting conflicting information - some say we have to have the list, others say we do not. I know we need the log of the shows but do we or don't we have to have an actual list placed in the public file within 10 days of the last quarter?

Are Affiliates at Any Legal Risk?

With over 500 affiliates carrying the Rush Limbaugh program and Social Media offering many of those affiliates instant feedback on how they feel about what Rush said last week, we wondered what would happen if Sandra Fluke decided she wanted to take this issue into the court system. Would stations have to worry about any liability? We took that question to broadcast attorney John Garziglia this past weekend and here's what he had to say.

Do Coverage Maps Need to be Accurate?

One GM wondered if there were any FCC requirements in relation to coverage maps used within sales literature? This query stems from stations using self-created maps suggesting their coverage area may be greater than what the FCC might recognize within accepted contour maps. But is there anything that governs acceptable sources and/or misrepresentation in the matter?

When Must Your Studio Be Covered?

There seems to be a little confusion about what the FCC wants when it comes to manning your studio. So, we took your questions right to our legal blogger, John Garziglia. What are the official requirements for stations to have their studio covered? It's obvious with automation an entire station can be empty. So, what are the rules if you are an automation and an FCC inspector knocks on the station door? And, what are the fines is you fail?

Jock Endorsements. What Are The Rules?

A GM e-mailed in a great question for our "Ask The Attorney" blog this week concerning live reads and product endorsements. What are my stations legal obligations since the FTC passed new rules requiring those endorsing products to identify they are being compensated by the sponsor? Do my jocks have to implicitly explicitly say on air in that commercial that they are being paid for their testimonials? Attorney John Garziglia tackled that question for us and here is his answer.

Should Indecency Case Concern You?

By now you've read the news about the Supreme Court taking up the "fleeting expletive" case. While it was mostly TV defending late night nakedness and self-absorbed Hollywooders dropping F-Bombs we wanted to make sure you know how all of this affected radio. We turn to broadcast attorney John Garziglia with this question: As a result of the Supreme Court hearing should radio broadcasters be worried or concerned moving forward?

Want Your Own FM? Here's Your Chance

(with John Garziglia) I note that the FCC is now accepting applications for new FM stations in mostly rural areas, including an opportunity for an FM station in the town I grew up in, for an auction to be held later this Spring. What is this all about? We took that question to John Garziglia and asked him to give us the details.

Do You Still Need to Air Contest Rules?

Now that contest rules are consistently listed on radio station websites, what do stations need to do about broadcasting those rules over the air? A Radio Ink reader asks the question: Is there a law requiring we broadcast them on a regular basis through all day parts and do those rules apply to streaming as well? We turned that question over to broadcast attorney John Garziglia.

What If Your Station Is "Occupied?"

Although the "Occupy Clear Channel" movement turned out to be a big fat dud, it sparked an interesting question from a Radio Ink Reader. What if a rowdy flash-mob did all of a sudden turn up at your station, all demanding to see your public file. As you know, radio station public files are some of the most interesting and compelling reading for the average Jack and Jill. It could happen right?

The Lowest Unit Rate Dilemna

It may already be happening at your station. If not, for sure it will be, at many stations, in 2012. The dreaded lowest unit rate deal that politicians, who probably have and make more money than most people, are allowed to get on your station. It's important that you are well versed on the rules regarding lowest unit rate, of course, but what if you suddenly realize you did not give the local Mayor the lowest unit rate last month. What are you obligated to do, if anything? We put that question to the legal mind of broadcast attorney John Garziglia.

Are You At Risk If Your DJ is Wrong?

As a follow up to the previous story, we thought it would be appropriate to ask broadcast attorney John Garziglia about the situation. If something similar happened to you, would you be at risk. Discussions, in the public domain, take place every day on talk radio and with public figures that seems to just go with the territory. But when a community figure is not public and information broadcast is not checked for facts, what liability do you have as a station manager or owner?

When Does Opinion Become Slander?

(by Ed Ryan) If you've been following the sordid Penn State story you might think graduate assistant Mike McQueary is a criminal. The sports press has convicted McQueary in the court of public opinion, vilifying him without having knowledge of all of the facts of this case. It turns out, they may have all been wrong.

What If Penn State Happened to You?

(by Ed Ryan) It'll be interesting to see how the ratings treat sports stations during November. Speaking for myself, I've never listened to as much sports radio as I have since this story broke. The nightmare unraveling day-by-day at Penn State has me tuning into ESPN radio the minute I wake up, and any sports station that has a stream and is talking about the topic.

Politics And Your Money

2012 is expected to be a very big political year and with that many radio stations are hoping to overcome quarter after quarter of flat revenue. Whether it's a high-ranking Washington lawmaker, a local city alderman or a special interest group, at this time next year station stopsets will be filled with so many political ads listeners won't know who's running for what office. So exactly what are the rules and rates for what your station charges politicians.

Will Cross Ownership Ever Be Relaxed

We had a GM send in a great question for attorney John Garziglia in our weekly "Ask The Attorney" segment. "I would like to know if the FCC will take any action on newspaper cross ownership issues and as well as loosening ownership restrictions with the current Obama administration in office."

Ask The Attorney

In our Ask The Attorney segment today John Garziglia answers a question from a GM who is renting tower space from another radio station. The GM has noticed that the light bulbs in the beacon have been out for weeks. And, the tower's registration number is not visible from the road. What should the GM do? What is he required to do? Is it OK for him not to do anything?

What if Your Talent Wants Out of His Contract?

In our "Ask The Attorney" segment with John Garziglia (pictured) we always try to come up with a question that has a real possibility of taking place at your station. This question came to us as a result of what's going on in Birmingham where Cumulus is battling with Paul Finebaum who has a signed contract but has filed a lawsuit against Cumulus. The interesting part of the Birmingham story is Finebaum is still on the air with Cumulus.

The Fairness Doctrine Fallacy

(by John Garziglia) The Fairness Doctrine was the wrongly-named rule that horribly discouraged any coverage of controversial issues, and was not generally enforced by the FCC, except when it was. There is a pernicious undercurrent to First Amendment thought that suggests that our Federal government has a role in enabling certain speech in the presence of other speech.

Morning Host Leaving? What to do.

A General Mnager recently sent in a question about a morning man he had but was afraid he was going to lose. Broadcast attorney John Garziglia took this question on. "I have a morning host whom I suspect is looking for another job. He is really popular and we can't lose him. What are the pros and cons of asking him to sign a specific length contract and do I need to get a lawyer involved or is a simple agreement letter enough?"

Man Your Battle Station

Last week Vision Latina's KBPO in Port Neches, TX received a $25K fine from the FCC mother ship. It was for failing to maintain a main studio with a meaningful staff and management presence; and failing to maintain a complete public file. Do you know what "meaningful staff and management presence actually means? If not, attorney John Garziglia lays it out for you in our weekly feature called "Ask The Attorney."


As an employee are you getting job offers from the competitor down the street? Will the station come after you if you leave? As an employer do you worry your top salesperson is going to walk out one day and take all of her great relationships down to your biggest rival? Do you have the time and money to go after that salesperson if she does jump ship? The big question is, does that non-compete you both signed back when your relationship started have any enforceable bite? Those questions from Radio Ink readers and recent events in Chicago led us to throw a non-compete question at attorney John Garziglia.

"Recording Callers"

In our latest "Fresh Content" feature, we ask attorney Communications Law attorney John Garziglia about a sticky situation in the studio. It canhappen to any station at any time and probably has happened to you. What should you do when one of your employees records a listener without telling him or her first that the recording device is on.

Thinking About Firing A Salesperson?

This weeks "Ask The Attorney" segment involves something all of us hate to do. Fire an emplyee. The scenario. "There is a 10-year radio salesperson at your station. The policy of the company is, miss a goal one month, it's a warning. 3 more consecutive misses - termination. We recently followed the station policy to the letter with a green salesperson. My 10-year salesperson just missed 4 months in a row. Sales can be especially sticky since they are usually commission based. What is the typical severance for a sale rep who has been on board for multiple years - and how should that be spelled out in a contract - to protect both sides and clarify all nuances?


Indecency regulations are the topic of this week's edition of "Ask the Attorney" with John Garziglia of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge, and Rice. Garziglia notes the uncertainty now surrounding the issue, saying that if the Supreme Court ultimately reviews a court decision throwing out stricter indecency regulations, "anything could happen." He says, "It is impossible to guess which way the Supreme Court will go."

Botched Contest

We just ran a contest to give away a car. Contest boxes were dropped off to 6 advertisers where listeners registered to win. The day after the name was pulled and announced on the air, an account executive walks into your office with a box. Only 5 boxes were picked up. What are you legally required to do now?

What About tribal Preference?

Today's "Ask The Attorney" question comes from broadcaster Dennis Anderson. "I appreciate your article, and interpretation of the new FCC rule, but it raises an interesting dilemma for us. Some of our stations broadcast on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana, where classified employment ads regularly appear in the newspapers that boldly state the job opening is "TRIBAL PREFERENCE", which clearly represents a racially motivated advantage to applicants."

Contests That Go Wrong Can Cost You!

If you give away a house with a client and the client goes bust are you still on the hook for the prize? That's what clear channel is dealing with in Fort Myers Florida after a local developer went bankrupt after running a house-giveaway contest with the Clear Channel cluster. The case is going to mediation in August where someone will decide whether the developer bears 100% of the responsibility for failing to deliver or if Clear Channel has to pony up some cash.

Tower Fencing

One of our stories this week featured a situation where a station owner in a small market received a fairly substantial fine from the FCC for not properly fencing his tower. That seemed like a good reason for us to go to our expert attorney John Garziglia to provide broadcasters with information on how they can avoid such a fine. Here's what John had to say. "The violation of FCC rules for fencing, radio-frequency radiation (RFR) exposure, and signage are predominant FCC fine generators on the grounds around radio station tower areas."


This weeks Ask The Attorney question comes from reader Joy at All Star Radio Network and its a great one about streaming. Joy asks: "If part of a broadcast program containing a commercial is later available to hear on-line with the commercial still in it would the advertiser have grounds for legal action (even though you'd think they'd LIKE it!)?"

Tragic Accident

Our night guy doesn't make a lot of money so when his car broke down you let him drive the station van home. Much to your surprise you see the van on the front page of the paper the next day. Your night guy was drinking, drove the van and got into an accident killing the other driver. We address that tragic possibility with John Garziglia in our "Ask the Attorney" segment for this week. #1) What is your responsibility overall? #2) What is your responsibility to your employee?

Tower Deaths

This week, a fatal accident took place in Indiana, when two ERI employees fell 340 feet from a tower they were working on. It not only reminds us how dangerous this job is for engineers, it serves as a reminder to make sure everyone is covered in the event an unfortunate accident like this takes place. We asked attorney John Garziglia to tackle that question this week in our "Ask The Attorney" segment.

Tweeting About Your Station"

"Your on-air DJ just tweeted something negative about an advertiser. The advertiser called you and has threatened to cancel all advertising unless you fire the DJ. You are planning to fire the DJ. What do you need to look out for as you get ready to fire him to make sure you are covered?"

Does Hedberg Have a Case With the FCC Against CC?

While we want to be clear we are not offering legal advice or attempting to predict the outcome of a case we thought it would be a good idea to throw this one over to our "Ask The Attorney" writer John Garziglia. After reading the article he made the following comments. And, perhaps, this one just might come down to the agreement signed between Copperhead and Clear Channel.