FCC Enforcement Monitor ~ November 2020
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:
- Louisiana FM Radio Stations’ Late Filings Lead to $3,000 Proposed Fines
- Telemarketer Fined $9.9 Million for Thousands of Spoofed Robocalls
- Wi-Fi Device Manufacturer’s Equipment Marketing Violations End with Consent Decree and $250,000 Penalty
Late Filings Come at a Cost: FCC Proposes $3,000 Fines Against Louisiana FM Stations Over Late License Renewal Applications
Earlier this month, the Media Bureau issued Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) against two Louisiana FM radio licensees – one a supermax prison and the other a religious noncommercial broadcaster – for filing their respective license renewal applications late. The FCC proposed a $3,000 fine for each of the late filings.
Section 73.3539(a) of the FCC’s Rules requires broadcast station license renewal applications to be filed four months prior to the license expiration date. The prison station’s renewal application was due February 3, 2020 (the first business day following the February 1 deadline), but was not filed until May 29, 2020, mere days before its June 1 license expiration. Similarly, the noncommercial broadcaster’s station, also subject to the February 3 deadline, did not file its renewal application until May 22.
Section 1.80(b) sets a base fine of $3,000 for failure to file a required form, which the FCC can adjust upward or downward depending on the circumstances of the situation, such as the nature, extent, and gravity of the violation. In these cases, the FCC noted that neither licensee provided an explanation for their untimely filing, and ultimately proposed the full $3,000 fine for each late application.
Each NAL instructs the licensee to respond within 30 days by either: (1) paying the fine, or (2) providing a written statement seeking a reduction or cancellation of the fine along with any relevant supporting documentation.
Neither NAL, however, impacted the FCC’s review of the stations’ license renewal applications themselves. According to the FCC, the late filings did not constitute “serious violations” and the FCC found no other evidence of a pattern of abuse. As such, the Commission stated that it would approve each station’s renewal application in a separate proceeding assuming no other issues are uncovered that would preclude grant of a license renewal.
Thousands of Spoofed Political Robocalls End with $9.9 Million Fine
The FCC recently issued a Forfeiture Order, affirming a $9.9 million fine against a California telemarketer for violations of the Communications Act and the FCC’s rules regarding the use of spoofed phone numbers.
Section 227(e) of the Communications Act prohibits using a telephone caller ID service to “knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value[.]” Moreover, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) also protects consumers from unwanted calls by imposing numerous restrictions on robocalls. Such restrictions include requiring the called party’s prior express consent for certain pre-recorded calls to wireless phones and, for pre-recorded messages to wireless or wireline phones, requiring the calling party to identify itself at the beginning of the message and provide a callback number. Continue reading →