Fine canceled for struggling station


Never let it be said that the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t have a heart. The FCC has heard the financial hardship plea of a broadcaster and canceled a fine of $10,000.

Peak Communications no longer owns KQBE-FM Selah, WA, but it still remains liable for infractions that took place while it was the licensee. Peak sold the station to the Educational Media Foundation for $825,000 in 2008 and the station has since become KYKV-FM Ellensburg, WA.

Peak blew the whistle on itself, indicating in its 2005 license renewal filing that it could not certify that all of the required materials had been placed in its public file. It said it was impossible to reconstruct the missing documents from the early part of the license term when the station had a different owner. As a result, the FCC staff advised Peak that it was liable for a fine of $10,000.

Next up, Peak appealed to the Commission to cancel the fine due to financial hardship. That requires financial documentation, which the company provided.

“In support of its request for cancellation of the forfeiture, Peak submits copies of its 2005, 2006 and 2007 federal income tax returns, specifying gross revenues in the amounts of $48,849, $45,624, and $33,871, respectively, for average yearly gross revenue of $42,781.  The proposed $10,000 forfeiture represents 23.4% of Peak’s average gross revenue for 2005-2007.  In considering claims of financial hardship, we have found a forfeiture amount of five percent of average gross revenue reasonable, while the Enforcement Bureau has found that a forfeiture as high as 7.9 percent of average gross revenue was not excessive despite claims of financial hardship. In the absence of extraordinary circumstances, we would reduce the forfeiture to $2,100, which would represent approximately five percent of average gross revenue.  We find such circumstances present here, however.  During the same three-year period, Peak experienced cumulative net losses exceeding $218,600, meaning its losses exceeded its revenue by nearly seventy percent from 2005 through 2007,” Peter Doyle, Chief, Audio Division, Media Bureau, wrote in his ruling.

Doyle was convinced of the extreme nature of the financial hardship and canceled the fine. The  notice of apparent liability was reduced to an admonishment.

RBR-TVBR observation: Two lessons here. 1) Always be honest with the FCC, as Peak was. 2) Never give up. Peak made its argument and supplied everything the FCC needed or asked for. As a result, it was spared what was, for a small company, hefty punishment.