FCC Enforcement Monitor
Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:
- TV Licensee Agrees to Pay $18,000 for Public Inspection File Violations
- FM Translator Licensee Faces $9,000 Fine for False Certification and Unauthorized Operation Violations
- AM Station Licensee Pays $10,000 to End Investigation into Alleged Ownership Violations
Mistakes Over Off-Air Time in Public Inspection File Cost TV Licensee $18,000
The FCC’s Media Bureau entered into a Consent Decree with a Las Vegas Class A television licensee to resolve an investigation into whether the licensee violated the FCC’s Rules by improperly indicating on four Children’s Television Programming Reports and TV Issues/Programs Lists that it was off-air, and failing to prepare mandatory certifications of Class A eligibility for over five years.
Section 73.3526 of the FCC’s Rules requires each commercial broadcast licensee to maintain a public inspection file containing specific information related to station operations. Subsection 73.3526(e)(11)(iii) requires TV licensees to prepare and place in their public files a Children’s Television Programming Report for each calendar quarter showing, among other things, the efforts made during that three-month period to serve the educational and informational needs of children. In addition, Subsection 73.3526(e)(11)(i) requires TV licensees to place in their public file, on a quarterly basis, an Issues/Programs List that details programs that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding quarter. Also, Subsection 73.3526(e)(17) requires each Class A television station to include in its public file documentation sufficient to demonstrate that it continues to meet the Class A eligibility requirements as set forth in Section 73.6001.
On May 28, 2014, the licensee filed its station’s license renewal application. In the process of evaluating the application, FCC staff found that the licensee indicated the station was off-air in its Children’s Television Reports and Issues/Programs Lists for two quarters during which it was on the air for a portion of the quarter, and for two quarters during which the station did not have Special Temporary Authorization (“STA”) to go off-air. In addition, the station failed to prepare any Class A certifications during its license term, which began in the third quarter of 2009.
The licensee explained that it had mistakenly indicated that the station was off-air in the Children’s Television Reports and Issues/Programs Lists filed for the last three quarters of 2010 because its compliance official mistook the station’s engineering STA for an STA to go off-air. With regard to the first quarter 2012 reports, the licensee explained that the compliance official mistook another station’s STA to go off-air for this station’s STA.
To resolve the investigation, the licensee admitted to the violations and agreed to pay an $18,000 fine. The licensee also agreed to a two-year compliance plan, which directs the licensee to institute management checks, training, and other measures designed to prevent a re-occurrence of the violations. Despite the imposition of a fine and compliance plan, the FCC renewed the station’s license, finding that the licensee met the minimum qualifications to hold an FCC license, and that grant of the license renewal application was in the public interest.
FCC Proposes $9,000 Fine for FM Translator Licensee Based on False Certification and Unauthorized Operation Violations
The FCC’s Media Bureau proposed to fine a Texas FM translator licensee $9,000 for falsely certifying in a license application that its translator was constructed as specified in its construction permit, and for operating the translator at variance from its license. The FCC also admonished the licensee for including incorrect information in a related application.