Fines Hit Two Idaho Radio Stations for GOP Program Funding Secrecy

3 min read

Southern Idaho is abuzz with news as two radio stations, one situated in Nampa, find themselves in hot water with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). New York-based Townsquare Media, the parent company overseeing these stations, has been hit with a substantial fine of half a million dollars for what the FCC terms as “willful and repeated violations” related to on-air sponsorship disclosures.

The FCC’s Media Bureau, responsible for licensing radio stations, undertook an investigation that led to the enforcement of this hefty penalty. KIDO-AM (580) in Nampa and KLIX-AM in Twin Falls, both under the Townsquare Media umbrella, have been found guilty of airing political advertisements and episodes of “Keep Idaho Red” for over a year without disclosing their paid nature. The payments were traced back to the Idaho Republican Party and later to Tom Luna, acting on behalf of Tom Luna and Associates.

Key figures in this saga include Luna, the former state superintendent of public instruction and chair of the Idaho GOP for two years, and Victor Miller, chairman of the Ada County Republican Party. Luna’s unseating in 2022 by state Rep. Dorothy Moon adds a layer of political intrigue to the narrative.

The FCC’s findings reveal that both stations neglected on-air sponsorship identification announcements for the majority of episodes and advertisements, omitting crucial details about the funding sources behind the content. These violations spanned from October 2021 to March 2023, representing a prolonged period of non-compliance.

Holly Saurer, Chief of the FCC Media Bureau, emphasized in the order that some program episodes featured appearances by legally qualified candidates for public office, conveying messages on national political matters. Notably, neither station uploaded records of these candidate uses or messages to their online political files, further compounding their regulatory transgressions.

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Townsquare Media, confronted with the FCC’s allegations, has opted for a conciliatory stance by admitting to the violations in a consent decree. As part of this agreement, the media giant commits to implementing a comprehensive plan to ensure future compliance with sponsorship identification and online political file obligations. Additionally, Townsquare Media will submit annual compliance reports to the FCC’s Media Bureau and pay the stipulated fine.

Despite the gravity of the situation, Townsquare Media, a stock exchange-listed entity with a physical presence on East Park Boulevard in Boise, chose not to immediately respond to requests for comment when contacted by media outlets.

Townsquare Media’s radio empire includes several stations catering to the Treasure Valley community, such as Kiss FM, Lite FM, Power FM, Mix 106, and Wow Country. The FCC’s actions against the parent company underscore the significance of adherence to regulatory standards in the broadcasting industry and serve as a reminder to media entities about the consequences of failing to comply with on-air sponsorship disclosure rules.

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