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:
- Government Shutdown and Other “Compelling Reasons” Prompt FCC to Reinstate NY Radio Station License
- FCC Fines Virginia AM Station and Limits License Renewal to Two Years for Missing Quarterly Programs/Issues Lists
- Virginia Station’s Late License Renewal Application Proves Costly
How Do You Measure a Year? “Unique Circumstances” Lead to New York AM Station’s Reinstatement
In a Memorandum Opinion and Order and related Consent Decree, the Media Bureau agreed to reinstate the license of a Long Island, New York AM radio station that had been silent for nearly all of 2018 before going back on air without authorization in the midst of this year’s partial government shutdown. The Media Bureau also approved an application to sell the station that had been pending since February.
Section 73.1745(a) of the FCC’s Rules requires a station to broadcast according to the “modes and power” specified in its license, and further requires licensees to seek special temporary authority (often referred to as an “STA”) when seeking to operate at variance from their license. Even where a station obtains temporary authority from the FCC to remain silent, Section 312(g) of the Communications Act of 1934 provides that a broadcast station’s license automatically expires if it does not transmit a broadcast signal for 12 consecutive months. The FCC does not consider unauthorized operation to be a “broadcast signal” for purposes of declaring a station’s operations to be resumed under Section 312(g). Fortunately, the FCC has the discretion to reinstate a license that would otherwise be lost under Section 312(g) where it is appropriate as a matter of “equity and fairness.”
On January 25, 2018, the AM station went silent due to the loss of its licensed transmitter site. Shortly thereafter, the licensee sought and was granted authority by the FCC to remain silent through August 16, 2018. When that date arrived, the station continued to remain silent, but failed to apply for an extension of that authority. On January 15, 2019, the licensee informed the FCC that it had resumed operations on an emergency antenna at low power, and it filed a request for special temporary authority to operate at those parameters. The station’s request fell on deaf ears, however, as the federal government was shut down at that time due to a budget dispute. The FCC did not resume normal operations until January 26, 2019, and did not grant the STA request until February 1. Continue reading →