The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

FCC Enforcement Watch Archive: 2021

Some NALs (Notices of Apparent Liability), Forfeiture Orders, Notices of Violation (NOVs), and Consent Decrees issued by the MB (Media Bureau) or the EB (Enforcement Bureau) are worth taking a look.

Note: Clicking on the NAL amounttakes you to the FCC Notice.
Clicking on the cited rule numberwill take you to the text of the rule.



12/30/21   – 73.123173.1263, 73.1820 – The FM translators assigned to AM stations must rebroadcast the permitted station and no others. KMTL(AM), Sherwood, AR went silent for several periods in January 2020. Among the problems the FCC found were missing Station Logs (needed to prove compliance – or not), missing Issues & Program filings, and rebroadcast of either original programming or that of another AM station.

A Memorandum and Consent Decree included a $3k fine.

12/27/21   –  73.1740,  73.3526 Birach Broadcasting’s KTUV, Little Rock AR (and the associated translator) received an NALF for $17.5k for being silent for two and a half months before seeking an STA to remain silent. Also, it noted there were a number of late filings of the Issues & Programs lists, along with some completely missing. 

12/23/21   –  73.1740 – If a station is not on the air, the FCC expects to be notified asked for an STA. RockingM Media Wichita KS acknowledged long periods of not operating. The NALF for $7k with a short leash (January 1st) notes the substantial time without operation, with no notification – in fact, they came close to the one year rule for automatic deletion. 

12/23/21   –   73.3539  The FCC really does not like it when forms and applicatlations are late. As noted, we have seen a regular stream of NALs for later renewal applications. This one is to KAPR, Douglas AZ. Instead of tendering the application by June 1st, Sonora Broadcasting filed on September 27th, just  four days before the license expired. The FCC issed the usual NALF for $3k.

12/10/21   – 11.45A “stunt” with EAS tones by a “talent” (who was not a station employee but who bought time) at Beasley Media Group’s KDWN, Las Vegas NV has resulted in an NALF for $20k. The violation was reported by the the “board operator” to management after the event. 

11/30/21  – 73.3526 , 73.3514the FCC is ordering more and larger fines for not uploading the Issues & Programs lists on time each quarter – and then not admitting to it. Unity Broadcasting has been fined $38k for two of their TV stations.

11/15/21  – 17.23, 17.47,  17.57   An AM station  owner – SPB, LLC, Greeenwood, MS –  entered into a consent decree and was fined $1,400 for the failure to properly maintain its tower lights, monitor them daily, and report a change in the ownership of the tower. The fine was reduced when the owner made a financial showing that it could not pay a higher fine. 

11/4/21  – Alabama Media in Dothan AL has agreed to pay $13k for a Consent Decree and Order relating to  violations on translator W299BX.

Listed by the FCC inculded changing the transmitter sites without authorization, operating the translator during times the primary station was off the air, and not notifying the FCC as required when the translator was silent for more than 10 consecutive days.

11/2/21  – The FCC gets really annoyed if a station starts construction before the environmental assessment was completed and a CP is issued. Fort Myers Broadcasting agreed to pay $20k for the pre-mature start.

11/2/21   – 73.3539 – License renewals are due four months before the license expires. WPGS, Mims FL waited until the day before expiration to file its renewal application on January 31, 2021. Despite the FCC asking for an explanation, none was received, so the FCC responded with a Forfeiture Order for $3k.

And then there is WENO in Nashville TN. Their license was to expire August 1, 2020 – the renewal application came in not on April 1st but July 31st.

Yep. Another Forfeiture Order for $3k.

10/28/21   – 73.3539 – License renewals are due four months before the license expires. KLND, Little Eagle SD was very late  – just one week short of the license expiration on April 1, 2021. The licensee had the excuse of not having the password for the LMS, due to a change in managers. The FCC issued an NALF for $3k.  (At least they did not claim the dog ate the renewal application or the password.)

10/27/21  – When you get a CP, it is designated exactly where to build it – not miles away. A Memorandum Report and Order deletes the license for DKQEK-LP, Cupertino CA. The station was noted for being 3.5 miles from its authorized site, with a higher antenna HAAT – effectively doubling its coverage – and operated there for two years before the FCC ordered it off the air. Additionally, the FCC noted that four hours of operation from a telescoping antenna was not considered a completion of construction. 

 

CP and The EB has rescinded the NALF to two translator stations in Texas. After a second look,  the EB acknowledges that they did not issue the first license until six weeks after the renewal date for Texas stations. 

9/30/21  – The EB has rescinded the NALF to two translator stations in Texas. After a second look,  the EB acknowledges that they did not issue the first license until six weeks after the renewal date for Texas stations. 

9/28/21  – 73.3539  – And another batch of fines for late renewals were released.

9/27/21  –  73.3526 and 73.3527 – The FCC has set deadlines for uploading certain files to the Online Public File. Being late is not a good thing, as the EB does check. WDHN, Dothan AL filed all their reports, but 14 of them were late. from one day to some over a year. The NALF is for $9k

Similarly, WBEC-TV, Boca Raton FL received an NALF for $3k for 9 late reports and WYCW Asheville, NC got an NALF for $3k for 4 late reports.

9/24/21  – 73.3539  – Sometimes a late renewal is caused by missing what seems like a small matter. In the case of Diponti Communications’ W276DF, Westerly RI , they bought a translator and moved it. But they did not fully realize the translator was part of a one-year renewal due to bad actions on the previous owner. About three years later, Diponti asked the Commission to issue an STA and renew the translator license. The FCC says it will, after a $7k fine in the NAL.  The warning to all owners is that “‘Inadvertence’ … is at best ignorance of the law, which the Commission does not consider a mitigating circumstance.” 

9/6/21  – 73.503 and 73.801 – Non-Commercial stations like LPFMs are supposed to be … non-commercial. That means support can be drawn from underwriting and short announcements that typically are restrained by several factors, including no “call to action” statements. The FCC found that WAWL-LP, Grand Haven, MI had run a number of announcements that ran afoul of the Rules for at least eight months. Noting that Underwriting Laws were broken, a Consent Decree was entered into for $17.5k

Another late renewal issue: WRIA-LP in Jacksonville, FL did not file a Renewal Application as required by Oct 1, 2019, and even after the Staff issued a Public Notice, the application was not filed until February, 2020. The EB issued an NALF for $7k.

9/3/21  – 73.3539  – Another late renewal issue: WRIA-LP in Jacksonville, FL did not file a Renewal Application as required by Oct 1, 2019, and even after the Staff issued a Public Notice, the application was not filed until February, 2020. The EB issued an NALF for $7k.

9/3/21  – 73.3598  – A Construction Permit is not an Operating License. An Application for License must be filed before the Construction Permit runs out. 

  • Translator Station W273DJ in Millinocket, ME, had a Construction Permit that expired 1/8/21, but did file for the license until April. The FCC issued an NALF for $3.5k
  • Translator station K251CJ in Taos, New Mexico had a Construction Permit that expired 1/16/21, but did file for the license until August. The FCC determined a fine of $7k was appropriate. 
  • Translator stations W221ED and W249DQ in McMinnville, Tennessee had CPs expiring in January and February 2021. Application for a license did not happen until April 30th, so the FCC levied a fine of $7k.
  • Translator Station W288DN in Marion, Indiana had a Construction Permit expiring in January 2021. Despite an extension into July, the Application for License was filed a week and a half late, prompting a $3.5k fine.
  • Translator Station W285FR in Palatka, Florida failed to file the Application for License after the CP expired in January 2021. The FCC issued the NALF for $3.5k.
  • Translator Station K236CT in Pawhuska, OK received an extension on their CP to July 2021, but did not file for the license on time. Despite cancellation of the permit, the FCC did allow another short extension, but issued an NALF for $3.5k.

 

8/24/21 – The FCC database and online filing system occasionally “burps” and stations have difficulties. Potter Radio in Brantley AL, tried to file their Renewal Application, but an error in LMS data entry by the FCC made it impossible. Although saying the station could have fixed it a bit sooner, the EB did cancel the fine it had levied, noting the error n the LMS.

8/6/21 – 11.45 On the eve of the 2021 NPT, the FCC has issued an NALF to ESPN for $20k. The incident, which occurred last October 27, during a program “30 for 30,” which depicted a weather emergency in Alabama in 2011. ESPN admitted the they ran the tone, but said it was less than 2 seconds. The FCC pointed out that any use of such tones is a violation and this was not the first time ESPN had done this (having paid $280k for a similar violation in 2015), and increased the “normal” fine from $8k to $20k

8/5/21 – 74.1234, 74.1283, 74.1284  Station owner Ed Stolz continues to have unwelcome contact with the FCC. Currently, two NOV’s have been issued against a pair of  Stolz’ Palm Springs translators (and also) licensed as Major Market Radio. With the main station in receivership – and off the air since May – the translators have been accused of throwing dead carriers, without ID, and/or relaying an unauthorized signal. 

Stolz continues to fight the court and is now protesting the sale of stations by the receiver. All of this, starting with his wanted to cancel his sale of a Sacramento  CA  station continues to wander through the court system.

7/15/21 – 73.3527The Issues & Programs upload is another are the EB continues to monitor. You are supposed to file by the 10th following each quarter, but the FCC has, up to this point, not really quibbled about a couple of days here and there. But if you fail to upload quarter after quarter, you can expect a fine.

For example: VPM Media in Virginia, received an NALF for $9k.

7/9/21 – 73.3539the EB continues fines for late renewals. WJPM-LP in Palatka, FL, was given an NALF for $3.5k. They could have been bit for something like $10k, because the station not only was late, but operated after the license expired – essentially becoming a pirate. However, the EB granted a very nice reduction for a “secondary service.” 

6/14/21 – 73.3539the EB continues fines for late renewals. Here is WVFC’s $3k NAL. 

6/8/21 – 73.3539 – As noted below (3/18/21), each day brings another NAL or two because of late renewal applications. This is, like the Issues & Programs filing, low hanging fruit for the EB. 

A couple of recent samples: 
WAAU-LD, Augusta, GA
FM Translator K266AK, Aspen, CO

5/14/21 – Section 315(e)(3), 73.1943 – Not only are the EB actions continuing, but reports indicate  the emphasis on “immediately” meaning that waiting even a couple of days to upload to the OPIF can bring enforcement. Another trap: political ads in syndicated programming. These must also be reported – immediately – even if the syndicator did not inform you!  More than one station is now under a Consent Decree and a lot of paperwork because they missed this one!

5/5/21 – Section 315(e)(3), 73.1943 – Well over 2000 stations have now been caught and acquiesed to Consent Decrees relating to their failure to have their on-line political files done properly. As the renewal season progresses, we will no doubt see more – anywhere from one to five a day! – and eventually, the Consent Decrees will end and NALFs will become the “norm.”

4/2/21 – Section 309, 317 – Another example of a station that thought two days of low power operation in a year would protect the license. The FCC ordered a Hearing to decide if the license for WJEH(AM), Gallipolis, OH should be revoked.

3/18/21 – 73.3539  – More NALFs for late filings. This time to WKRS AM&FM in Holly Springs, MS. The NALF was for $6k. 

3/10/21 – Section 309, 317 –The FCC rather expects licensed stations to operate, especially if the station expects to have the license renewed. Some stations have tried to skirt the FCC’s 12-month Rule (If no operation for 12 months, the license is cancelled) by operating for very brief periods.

The Commission views long periods of silence with short periods of operation, often at minimal power, as unacceptable. It states: “Silence instead of licensed operation is a fundamental failure to serve [a] station’s community of license, because a silent station offers that community no public service programming such as news, public affairs, weather information and Emergency Alert System notifications. Moreover, brief periods of station operation sandwiched between prolonged periods of silence are of little value because the local audience is not accustomed to tuning in to the station’s frequency.”) 

For that reason, the application for WSYL AM, Sylvania GA has been designated for a Hearing due to almost no operation over the past several years. According to the chart in the Order, WSYL was silent for 99% of the time since April 2020 – the two days it operated were at 20 Watts (2% of authorized power) – and was off three times as much as it was on since January 2018. 

UPDATE: 3/26/21 – the owners of WSYL have withdrawn their application for license renewal. 

3/9/21 – The FCC continues fines and Consent Decrees for stations failing to file renewal applications or update political files on time.

Among the most recent: KHOE, Fairfield IAWCCX, Waukesha WI,  W280FH, Leitchfield KY, WCHW-FM Bay City MI, and KXJX-LP, Clinton IA, for late filings, and Radio One Licenses for political files. 

2/22/21 – The FCC demonstrates a willingness to forgive some fines – to some stations. W278BK in Jenkins KY was fined $1.5 for a late renewal application. But after submitting three years of tax returns, the EB agreed the translator station could not afford the fine. 

Meanwhile WEHS-LP, Eupora MS received an NALF for $1.5k for being late.

2/15/21 – 315(e)(3), 73.1943 – We have not been listing each and every ORDER being issued to stations that did not update their political files properly – there have been some almost every week since the FCC nailed six major companies for violations last July (7/22/20 and 8/10/20, below). The Enforcement Bureau has, even after numerous ORDERS and Consent Decrees, a large list of stations that failed to upload additions to the Political File “as soon as possible” for public inspection.

While this time around, the EB has not issued a lot of fines, but has delay license renewals and, insisted on comprehensive compliance plans to ensure future filings are timely. You can be certain the costs of the lawyers and compliance programs exceeds fines for similar first-time violations. 

It is worth acknowledging that this is truly “low hanging fruit” for the EB, so stations should pay careful attention – this certainly will still be a “sensitive” matter in the next elections. 

2/12/21 – 73.3539 – It took less than two months past the deadline to file for renewal, but WLDC-LP, Goshen, IN was still late, but did attract an NALF for $1.5k  On the other hand, WBCR(AM) Alcoa, TN  finally got their renewal in almost four months late,  just four days before the license expired. This NAF was for $3k.

2/12/21 – Felons are not permitted by the FCC to hold licenses nor sell them for profit. Michael G. Hubbard, former Speaker of the House in Alabama was convicted of felonies. The FCC has now started a Hearing to Show Cause why the should not strip Hubbard of his six licenses and a CP.

2/8/21 – 73.3539 – Another translator renewal application has been cited for lateness. FCR Broadcasting’s  W287BE in Greenwood IN  was about six weeks late, resulting in an NALF for $1500

2/5/21 – 73.3539 – The translators Renewal applications need to be filed on time, just like main station. The FCC issued NALFs for two companies in Kentucky for late filings last Spring. Heritage Media of Kentucky’s W280FH in Leitchfield KY, and  Letcher County Broadcasting’s W278BK in Jenkins KY each drew $1500 fines for late filings.

1/19/21 73.503 LPFM stations are not permitted to run paid commercial announcements (as opposed to underwriting). The Athenian Multicultural Study Club’s WPLP-LP, Athens, GA admitted to running nine such announcements and accepted a Consent Decree to pay $10k and institute a Compliance program. 

1/14/21 – An NALF issued to Cumulus (see 8/6/19) has turned into a Forfeiture Order, as the FCC has denied cancelling or reducing the fine – $233k – for a series of violations regarding sponsor identification and the Consent Decree ($540k) coming out of previous violations.

1/5/21 – This item is a few months old, but worth noting for a couple of the key points – especially the  need to do as the FCC instructs, and not seek forgiveness later. In 2013, Foundation For A Beautiful Life, Inc. (FBL) applied for and was eventually granted CP for an LPFM in Cupertino CA. The record details a series of Objections, changed applications, requests for reconsideration, and more objections which led the FCC to issue a CP that was returned by the Post Office as “Attempted – Not Known.”

After some further applications – and objections – the CP was reinstated, but when the Form 319 was filed, the day before the CP was to expire, the FCC was informed KQEK-LP was built 5.6 km from the authorized site. FBL claimed it was an “innocent error” and accused others of racism. After more letters and replies pleading all sorts of reasons and excuses, the FCC finally dismissed the license application and deleted the call sign in early 2019, and continued to knock down pleadings through October.

However, FBL was not done. In early 2020, now DKQEK-LP was back on the air, seeking relief via another series of pleadings. Finally in April 2020, the FCC issued a “Cease and Desist Order.” The station appears to be off the air, but pleading continued at least into August of last year.

If you are interesting in following some of the convolutions, RECnet has listed many of the documents, although some of the pleadings lead to a bad URL: www.recnet.com/kqek

2/8/21 – 73.3539 – Another translator renewal application has been cited for lateness. FCR Broadcasting’s  W287BE in Greenwood IN  was about six weeks late, resulting in an NALF for $1500


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