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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:

  • Connecticut Radio Station Risks Losing License Due to Unpaid Regulatory Fees
  • TV Translator Licensee Faces $16,500 Fine for Late License Renewal Applications
  • Voice Call Gateway Provider Accused of Flouting Call Blocking Rules, Faces Further Enforcement Action

Failure to Pay 8 Years of Regulatory Fees Puts Connecticut AM Radio Station License in Jeopardy

A Connecticut AM radio station is at risk of losing its license for failing to pay regulatory fees for eight years. The licensee currently owes more than $27,000 in unpaid regulatory fee debt, and additional charges will continue to accrue until the debt is paid in full.

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.

In addition, when regulatory fees or interest go unpaid, the FCC is authorized to revoke affected licenses and authorizations. In this case, the FCC sent demand letters to the licensee and its counsel, but payment was still not made. Ultimately, the Commission transferred the unpaid debts from years prior to fiscal year 2021 to the United States Department of Treasury for collection. Later, at the Commission’s request, the debt collection responsibility was transferred back to the FCC.

In an Order to Pay or Show Cause, the FCC gave the licensee 60 days to file with the Media Bureau documentation showing all outstanding regulatory fee debts have been paid or to show cause why the payments are not legally required or should be waived or deferred. The Media Bureau noted in the Order that failure to provide evidence of payment or to show cause within the time permitted could result in revocation of the station’s license.

License revocation normally requires the licensee first be given a hearing, but only if the licensee presents a substantial and material question of fact as to whether the fees are owed. In the case of a hearing, the licensee bears the burden to introduce evidence and provide proof. Where a hearing is conducted to collect regulatory fees, the FCC can require the licensee to pay for the costs of the hearing if the licensee does not ultimately prevail.

Television District Fails to Timely File Translator License Renewal Applications

A western state television district is facing a monetary fine of $16,500 for failing to timely file license renewal applications for eleven digital TV translator stations. The applications were due by June 1, 2022 but were not filed until mid-July of 2022. The licensee provided no explanation for the late filings. Continue reading →