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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published the 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:

  • Failure to File License Renewal Application Results in Cancelled License
  • Call Provider Receives Cease-and-Desist Letter From FCC for Apparently Transmitting Illegal Robocalls
  • New York Broadcaster Agrees to Consent Decree for Violations Relating to the Public Inspection File

Station Owner Unsuccessful in Reinstatement of Cancelled License After Failing to File Renewal Application

In a recent letter, the Audio Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau (the “Bureau”) upheld the cancellation of a Kentucky AM radio station’s license.  The letter follows a 2022 petition for reconsideration filed by the station’s owner that sought, among other things, to reinstate the station’s license after the station failed to file a license renewal application in 2020, while its prior license renewal application from 2012 was still pending.  Section 1.106 of the FCC’s Rules requires petitions for reconsideration in non-rulemaking proceedings, such as license renewal matters, to be filed within thirty days of the date on which public notice is given of a decision.

The station filed a license renewal application in 2012 during the 2011-2014 radio license renewal cycle. Action on that application was withheld while the Enforcement Bureau investigated the station’s compliance with the FCC’s public file rules and because the licensee had not paid regulatory fees and was in “red light” status.  In 2017, the FCC notified the licensee that the Enforcement Bureau had concluded its investigation and directed the licensee to amend the application to reflect the station’s non-compliance with the public file rules and to also clear the red light hold.  The licensee did not amend the application or clear the hold, and the application remained in pending status.

License renewal applications for Kentucky radio stations were next due by April 1, 2020.  In advance of the start of the 2019-2022 radio license renewal cycle, the FCC released a public notice setting out the procedures for stations to follow when filing for renewal of their license.  In that notice, the FCC wrote that “[l]icensees with pending applications from the prior renewal cycle also are subject to [these] filing requirements.”  The station owner did not file a license renewal application by the April 1, 2020 deadline and the station was included in a public notice stating that the station’s license would expire on August 1, 2020, if no renewal application was filed.  On August 6, 2020, the FCC released another public notice—this one stating that the station’s license had been cancelled, and on the same day dismissed the 2012 renewal application but did not release a public notice about that action.  After outreach from the owner’s counsel, Media Bureau staff on March 16, 2022 reinstated and granted the 2012 application, with no explanation for doing so in the public notices that accompanied those actions, but otherwise left the station’s license in cancelled status.

In the petition for reconsideration, the station owner argued that when the Bureau reinstated and granted the 2012 application in 2022, it should have also rescinded the 2020 cancellation of the license.  The owner argued that reinstatement of the 2012 application should have reinstated the license for the station, giving him the opportunity to file the license renewal application that was due in 2020.  The station owner further noted that he was unaware of the 2020 public notice announcing that the station’s license was set to expire and that, in any event, he was not required to file a renewal application in 2020 because the 2012 renewal application was still pending, meaning he did not hold a license with an August 2020 expiration, so no license could have expired at that time. Continue reading →