There is a show in Houston radio show on KRBE called Roula & Ryan's Roses -- you can subscribe here. It's rather amusing and trashy. I've heard it a few times before. "Retired Engineer" on Kingwood.com, a local forum, made the claim that on-air prank calls were illegal, that they were all scripted. You can see the claim here,

Claim that radio prank calls are fake

Retired Engineer linked to this

However, on examination that pages links to "FCC Fines of $25,000 and $16,000 for Airing Phone Calls Without Prior Consent". The source seems to root its claim in this statute,

Section 73.1206 of the FCC’s rules prohibits the broadcast, or recording for purposes of broadcast, of telephone calls without first getting the consent of the person on the other end of the phone.

And these FCC rulings,

I just find that very hard to believe. There is another show that is significantly less malicious that also airs in Houston called Dean & Rog's Birthday Scam. They don't interfere with marriages and relationships with information of adultery, but they sure do prank call people.

Is it illegal to air a prank call in the United States because of FCC regulation? And, if so, how is everyone doing it?

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    prerecording the pranks and getting permission to air after the prank but before airing afterwards would be OK Dec 21, 2012 at 0:51
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    In many states in the US it's legal to record so long as one party (the DJ) knows they are being recorded. They can then get permission, post-prank, to air the recording. Voila. Jan 10, 2013 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


It is not illegal per se (I know this is of interest because of the tragedy involving Jacintha Saldanha (the nurse in London that let the call through for the Australian radio prank call)). Section 73.1206 of the FCC rules says is that they have to get permission of the person being recorded prior to airing the call (it is not done live despite what the DJs may say). Face it, the entertainment industry will lie (entertainingly) to keep their audience. Your question contained the answer really.

Section 73.1206 of the Commission’s rules by recording a telephone conversation for broadcast without prior notification to the called party

I can't seem to get the text of said section to come up on the FCC site, but this search string on the FCC site turns up a lot of hits where the FCC has taken action for this rule, and then relates the same verbiage.

Another document from the FCC about prank calls is the TCPA (PDF Link), which is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. There is a brief mention of prank calls in that flyer which states:

While registering home phone numbers on the national Do-Not-Call list prohibits telephone solicitations, this action does not make prank or harassing calls unlawful. For problems with such calls, contact local law enforcement agencies.

So this is not in the control of the FCC, but rather local officials.

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    The Saldanha case doesn't fall under FCC jurisdiction. The laws in Australia are different - normally you need to seek permission before broadcast, but not before recording. However it was more complicated because they were recording someone out of the country. The radio station's lawyers' view seems to be permission is not required in that situation.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 21, 2012 at 2:37
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    @Oddthinking all is true, but it caused a lot of on air discussions. Unfortunately, if I said, "Greg and The Morning Buzz on WGIR Radio said they have to get permission to air these calls." it would be anecdote. :) I was just trying to help with background. The FCC is a US organization, so that is the geographic relation to the question. Dec 21, 2012 at 2:44
  • 1
    I remember Greg and the Morning Buzz from when I lived up there in NH! Fun show!
    – JasonR
    Dec 21, 2012 at 14:03
  • 4
    Was the gratuitous political red meat truly necessary for the quality of the answer?
    – user5341
    Dec 25, 2012 at 1:04

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