Fine scorecard: FCC 2, appellant 0


A licensee facing two totally unrelated FCC fines appealed them both. One of them involved filing a Form 301 on time after winning an FCC auction for an FM CP; the other was for a public file violation. In the latter case, the licensee made the argument that the fine should be rescinded because the public file “…serves no useful purpose.”

The station, WGIV-AM Gastonia NC (the former WLTC) was missing issues/programs lists during a stretch spanning from 1998 through 2003, and on 6/21/04 the FCC hit licensee Frank J. Neely with a $9K notice of apparent liability.

In addition to claiming that the issues/program requirement is useless, Neely argued that the NAL was three times greater than that issued for similar infractions, and that he was unable to pay the fine. To support the latter claim, he provided unsigned tax returns for the years 2001 through 2003.

The FCC naturally wasn’t buying the “serves no useful purpose” argument; it said that the fine was in line with others issued for violations with a similar multiyear duration, and further noted that the unsigned tax returns were not admissible as evidence.

Neely continued to appeal, saying the FCC did not give “reasoned consideration” to his first appeal, which the FCC basically said was nonsense. Expanding somewhat on its earlier assessment of the situation based on Neely’s second appeal, it acknowledged that Neely is not the only licensee who thinks the public file requirement is useless, but noted that is no basis upon which a station can ignore the rule. It also said that even if it had accepted the unsigned tax returns, it would have upheld the fine at $9K because the returns indicated that Neely could in fact afford to pay it.

The fine stands at $9K.

In the other case, Neely won a CP for an FM located in Due West SC, but was late filing the post-auction Form 301 for the station. He did get it in late, and the FCC deemed it a minor infraction and granted the license. It also applied a $3K fine for tardiness. Neely said he did not fail to turn in the form, he was just late, and he turned it in of his own volition, not because he was so ordered. He also claimed the FCC’s fine was in violation of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1936 and is therefore unenforceable.

The FCC again said it was operating within the rules and within precedent. The fine once again stands, this time for $3K.