Your live on the Air.

Do you have to be notified if you call or are called by a radio station that you are or will be “live on the air”?
Are prank calls (or Crank calls) legal where the DJ calls some unsuspecting person up and screws with them without letting them know they are being recorded or that they may be live on the air?

One particular local afternoon DJ will crank call someone almost every afternnon. During the course of the conversation the callee is never made aware of the situation and it usually results in a hang-up. Usually the callee assumes that it was just some dumbass or pervert calling and never figures out that they were live on the air (or being recorded) at the time. Could the DJ possibly have called them back explaining the circumstances and then asking their permission to be broadcast? I`m pretty sure that none of the callees are notified ahead of time.

To fend off any nitpickers;

Of course, the title should be “You`re live on the air.”

I guess this depends on what löegislation we’re talking about. Having worked in radio for 20 years, I can tell you that over here it’s legal, as long as you ‘yourself’ participate, i.e. it’s not allowed to tap into a conversation and broadcast it.
Common courtesy dictates that when you do a prank call on an innocent victim, you give tell them after the fact and ask them if they object to being ‘put on the air’.
Our practice was always to target ‘´The rich and famous and/or powerful’. We never pulled prank calls on Joe Normal. If we’re gonna make someone look ridiculous, it’s not gonna be the average listener, but rather the guy who owns the Jaguar dealership.

However, in the US, fear of lawsuit might make things different. I can’t imagine it would be illegal, per se (more anon), but your average Soft Rock station might not want to do this for fear of being sued. Invasion of privacy can bring on a heavy lawsuit. (BTW - they seem to get away with it on reality shows like ‘Cops’.)

Investigative journalism relies heavily on this. Hidden cameras and microphones are legio, which is why I think it can’t be illegal, since this is the way it’s done in most ‘western’ countries.
All calls are pre-recorded, BTW. Even when there are call ins to win prizes and stuff.

In the USA, there is no legal requirement, so far as I know, to inform somebody that something is a prank. However, if some good or service is promised and not delivered, then there might be some grounds for a charge of fraud. Unfortunately, in the USA, radio prank calling DJs prefer to specialize in victimizing ordinary people. However, at least some shows that do this at least award some sort of prize to their victims at the ends.

Indeed, as was discussed in this thread, a waitress who thought she had won a “new Toyota” as a prize in a sales promotion was sorely disappointed to receive a Star Wars doll–a “toy Yoda”.

She sued, there was a settlement, and according to her lawyer, the waitress was able to go to “a local car dealership and ‘pick out whatever type of Toyota she wants.’”

Depending on the specific circumstances, some pranks can be more expensive for the prankster than others.

As Monica’s friend Linda Tripp found out, different states have different laws regarding the recordation of a conversations. In some states it is legal to record a conversation if one of the parties involved has consented (i.e., the DJ in your example). In other states both parties need to consent.

Here’s a link to state by state rules: