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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:

  • Repeated Failure to Pay Annual Regulatory Fees Puts Texas Station License in Jeopardy
  • FCC Proposes First-Ever PIRATE Act Fines, Including $2 Million-Plus Statutory Maximum
  • Failure to File License Renewal Applications Brings $13,500 Proposed Fine for Utah Television Translator Stations

Texas Radio Station at Risk of Losing License Over Unpaid Regulatory Fees

A Texas AM radio station’s license is at risk over the licensee’s failure to pay regulatory fees for nine years, dating back to Fiscal Year 2012.  The licensee owes more than $36,000 in fees before accounting for associated interest, late penalties, and administrative costs.

Under Section 9 of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 1.1151 of the FCC’s Rules, the FCC each year assesses regulatory fees on its regulatees to cover the costs of operating the agency.  The fees are typically due during the last two weeks of September so that the agency is fully funded at the start of the federal government’s fiscal year on October 1.  When payments are late or incomplete, the Communications Act and FCC Rules require a penalty assessment of 25% of the fee owed plus interest.

When regulatory fees or interest go unpaid, the FCC is authorized to revoke licenses and authorizations.  In this case, the FCC sent demand letters to the licensee and its counsel, but payments were still not made.  In an Order to Pay or Show Cause, the FCC gives the licensee 60 days to file with the Media Bureau documentation that all outstanding regulatory fee debts have been paid or to show cause why the payments are inapplicable or should be waived or deferred.  The Media Bureau notes that failure to provide evidence of payment or to show cause within the time specified may result in revocation of the station’s license.

Revocation normally requires a hearing, but only if the licensee presents a substantial and material question of fact as to whether the fees are owed.  If a hearing is designated on that basis, the FCC can require the licensee to pay for the costs of the hearing if the licensee does not prevail.

FCC Exercises Its PIRATE Act Monetary Penalty Authority for First Time

In a pair of Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL), the FCC proposed fines of $2,316,034 and $80,000 against brothers in New York and an individual in Oregon, respectively, for unauthorized radio broadcasting.  The Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act (known as the PIRATE Act) gave the FCC authority to take enforcement action against the pirates themselves and also against landlords and property owners who knowingly and willfully allow pirates to broadcast from their properties.  Illegal broadcast operations can interfere with licensed communications and pose a danger to the public by interfering with licensed stations that carry public safety messages, including Emergency Alert System transmissions.  These proposed fines are the first time the FCC has proposed fines using its PIRATE Act authority. Continue reading →

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April 1 is the deadline for broadcast stations licensed to communities in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas to place their Annual EEO Public File Report in their Public Inspection File and post the report on their station website.  In addition, certain of these stations, as detailed below, must submit their two most recent EEO Public File Reports along with FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 as part of their license renewal applications due by April 3.

Under the FCC’s EEO Rule, all radio and television station employment units (“SEUs”), regardless of staff size, must afford equal opportunity to all qualified persons and practice nondiscrimination in employment.

In addition, those SEUs with five or more full-time employees (“Nonexempt SEUs”) must also comply with the FCC’s three-prong outreach requirements.  Specifically, Nonexempt SEUs must (i) broadly and inclusively disseminate information about every full-time job opening, except in exigent circumstances,[1] (ii) send notifications of full-time job vacancies to referral organizations that have requested such notification, and (iii) earn a certain minimum number of EEO credits based on participation in various non-vacancy-specific outreach initiatives (“Menu Options”) suggested by the FCC, during each of the two-year segments (four segments total) that comprise a station’s eight-year license term.  These Menu Option initiatives include, for example, sponsoring job fairs, participating in job fairs, and having an internship program.

Nonexempt SEUs must prepare and place their Annual EEO Public File Report in the Public Inspection Files and on the websites of all stations comprising the SEU (if they have a website) by the anniversary date of the filing deadline for that station’s license renewal application.  The Annual EEO Public File Report summarizes the SEU’s EEO activities during the previous 12 months, and the licensee must maintain adequate records to document those activities.

For a detailed description of the EEO Rule and practical assistance in preparing a compliance plan, broadcasters should consult The FCC’s Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies – A Guide for Broadcasters published by Pillsbury’s Communications Practice Group.

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Commercial and noncommercial TV broadcast stations licensed to  communities in Delaware and Pennsylvania must file their license renewal applications by April 3, 2023.

April 3, 2023 is the license renewal application filing deadline for commercial and noncommercial TV broadcast stations licensed to communities in the following states:

Full Power TV, Class A, LPTV, and TV Translator Stations:
Delaware and Pennsylvania


The FCC’s state-by-state license renewal cycle began in June 2019 for radio stations and in June 2020 for television stations.  TV stations licensed to communities in the respective states listed above should be moving forward with their license renewal preparation.  This includes becoming familiar with the requirements for the filing itself, as well as being aware of changes the FCC has made to the public notice procedures associated with the filing (discussed below).

The license renewal application (FCC Form 2100, Schedule 303-S) primarily consists of a series of certifications in the form of Yes/No questions.  The FCC advises that applicants should only respond “Yes” when they are certain that the response is correct.  Thus, if an applicant is seeking a waiver of a particular rule or policy, or is uncertain that it has fully complied with the rule or policy in question, it should respond “No” to that certification.  The application provides an opportunity for explanations and exhibits, so the FCC indicates that a “No” response to any of the questions “will not cause the immediate dismissal of the application provided that an appropriate exhibit is submitted.” An applicant should review any such exhibits or explanations with counsel prior to filing.

When answering questions in the license renewal application, the relevant reporting period is the licensee’s entire 8-year license term.  If the licensee most recently received a short-term license renewal, the application reporting period would cover only that abbreviated license term.  Similarly, if the license was assigned or transferred via FCC Form 314 or 315 during the license term, the relevant reporting period is just the time since consummation of that last assignment or transfer.

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