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:
- Unpaid Regulatory Fees Bring License Revocation Proceeding for Massachusetts FM Station
- Unregistered Tower and Unauthorized Silence Spell Trouble for North Carolina AM Station
- FCC Issues Warning to Denver Trucking Company for Unauthorized Transmissions on Public Safety Frequency
The Check is (Not) in the Mail: Massachusetts Station Risks Revocation over Missing Regulatory Fees
The FCC’s Media Bureau issued an Order to Pay or to Show Cause (“Order”) to the licensee of a Massachusetts FM station for failing to pay five years’ worth of regulatory fees and the corresponding penalty fees. In response to the Order, the licensee must either pay the overdue fees or demonstrate why it does not owe regulatory fees. The Order also launches a proceeding to revoke the station’s broadcast license.
Section 9 of the Communications Act (“Act”) requires the FCC to “assess and collect regulatory fees” for certain regulated activities, including broadcast radio. Should a party fail to timely pay such fees, the FCC will assess a 25% late fee, as well as interest, penalties and administrative costs. The FCC may also revoke licenses for failure to pay.
The licensee failed to pay its regulatory fees between fiscal years 2014 and 2018, and has accumulated a debt of $9,641.73 in unpaid fees and related charges. The FCC repeatedly sent the licensee Demand Letters calling for payment but received no response. The FCC eventually transferred the licensee’s debt for fiscal years 2014-2017 to the Treasury Department for collection. At the FCC’s request, the Treasury Department recently transferred this debt back to the FCC in order to consolidate the collection process.
The licensee has 60 days to either: (1) provide the FCC with documented evidence that all its regulatory fee debt has been paid, or (2) show cause for why such payment is either “inapplicable or should otherwise be waived or deferred.”
Failure to provide a satisfactory response to the Order may result in the revocation of the licensee’s sole FM station license.
Silent Night: FCC Investigates North Carolina Licensee for Unregistered Tower and Other Violations
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued a Notice of Violation (“NOV”) to the licensee of a North Carolina AM radio station for failing to register and light its tower, and for failure to operate its station in accordance with the FCC’s Rules.
Part 17 of the FCC’s Rules requires a tower owner to comply with various registration, lighting and painting requirements. With limited exceptions, a tower that exceeds 200 feet in height above ground level must be registered with the FCC. Further, towers must be painted and lighted in compliance with FAA requirements, and any extinguished or improperly functioning lights must be reported to the FAA if the problem is not corrected within 30 minutes.
Part 73 of the FCC’s Rules sets minimum operating hours for commercial broadcast stations. A commercial AM station must operate for at least two-thirds of the total hours it is authorized to operate between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and two-thirds of the total hours it is authorized to operate between 6 p.m. and midnight every day except Sunday. A station that expects to be silent for over 30 days must seek and obtain Special Temporary Authority (“STA”) from the FCC to be silent for such an extended period. Continue reading →