WASHINGTON, D.C.—Providing local news and community information always has been strengths of the radio industry. Now, stations are supplementing these services with texting campaigns, reaching out directly to listeners to provide information they want and need. However, there are important legal considerations for broadcasters to consider before hitting “Send.”
Womble Bond Dickinson communications, technology and media lawyer Marty Stern explored this topic recently with Radio World.
“The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs text campaigns. It is implemented in FCC rules and regulations, and enforced by the FCC, and in the courts through class-action litigation,” Stern said. Violations of the TCPA can result in damages of $500 per-call, trebled to $1500 per call for knowing or willful violations. With texting campaigns involving thousands of calls, potential exposure can quickly add up.
“There is also an aggressive TCPA class-action plaintiff’s bar, which files cases in federal courts nationwide. Seven-figure settlements for TCPA violations are not uncommon,” Stern said.
Some of the legal considerations radio stations must consider in informational text messaging campaigns involving such things as local news, sports scores, and weather alerts, include:
Obtaining prior express consent before texting. Stations need to have a process in place to both obtain that permission and document it. (While not covered in the Radio World article, promotional texting involves a stricter form of consent known as “prior express written consent.”)
Appropriately scrubbing texting lists of contacts that have revoked permission.
Removing texting list contacts when the provided mobile number has been transferred to a different customer.
Simply hiring a texting service isn’t sufficient. Stern tells Radio World that the courts have held media outlets responsible when third-party telemarketers violate the TCPA. Any radio station texting plan should be reviewed by legal counsel before being implemented, he said.