By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
A pattern is being established – $15,000 and a short-term, 2-year license renewal seem to have become the standard penalty for stations that are missing all of their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists for a license renewal term. On October 8, the FCC’s Media Bureau issued a proposed fine to a Virginia station that had failed to complete any Quarterly Issues Programs lists during its 8-year license renewal term. The proposed $15,000 fine, and a renewal for only 2 years rather than the normal 8-year term, is the same penalty proposed two weeks ago in another case (which we wrote about here) where a station had similar problems. These two cases seem to announce that this is the base penalty for stations that simply have not bothered to complete any Quarterly Issues Programs lists.
Yet to be seen is what happens when a broadcaster has completed some but not all of the required public file paperwork. Last week, the FCC granted many of the license renewal applications from the first round of radio license renewals (for stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia). The granted applications were the ones that had few if any problems. With the FCC having acted at the two extremes – renewal grants for those with no issues and $15,000 fines and short-term renewals for those with significant issues – the Commission now needs to fill in the holes, deciding what to do with those applicants that fell somewhere between these two extremes. Watch for decisions from the FCC to see whether penalties are imposed on stations that fall in the middle in coming months.
One of those problems is what to do with stations that miss the FCC filing deadline for the license renewal application. Yesterday, the FCC’s Media Bureau announced a $1500 proposed fine for an LPFM station that missed the renewal filing deadline – filing about a month late without any excuse. This penalty is consistent with actions in past renewal cycles (see our article here), but more significant penalties or even cancelled licenses can result where licensees don’t catch their mistake before the FCC does. Watch for additional clarification from the FCC as to the penalties associated with other issues discovered at renewal time – and if your renewal has not yet come up, take action now to learn from these actions and to avoid these penalties.
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).
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