In the wake of voting to do away with net neutrality, the FCC—every netizen’s favorite kicking bag—may have done something good. The agency hit Sinclair Broadcast Group with a $13.4 million fine for running sponsored content as news.
As Variety reports, Sinclair’s network of local news stations ran stories about Jon Huntsman Sr.’s cancer foundation without disclosing that the foundation was paying for the stories to air. If you don’t know who Sinclair Broadcast Group is, the conservative-leaning outlet has been called “maybe the most influential media company that you’ve never heard of” by John Oliver, who covered its quiet takeover of local news on a recent episode of Last Week Tonight.
According to the FCC, the sponcon 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.” This is the largest fine ever imposed for a violation of the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules, but considering the rise of sponcon and so-called influencer networks, it could be just the start of a crackdown.