Problematic public files result in more FCC fines


One of the most unnecessary expenditures a radio can make is a payment to the FCC for failure to follow a simple and long-standing regulation, but time and again, stations have to pull out some plastic or a checkbook and pony up due to the simple failure to pay attention to the routine regulatory aspects of operating a broadcast station. Two more stations have recently joined the list.

One of the stations is KOOP(FM) Hornsby TX, licensed to Texas Educational Broadcasting Co-operative Inc. In addition to falling prey to arguably the most common public file error – the omission of issues/programs lists – the station also had voting board members who were aliens – the duo was enough to take the percentage of foreign nationals above the 20% maximum. The combination of violations resulted in a total financial liability of $15K.

TEBC did not dispute its guilt, but did plead poverty and asked that the fine be forgiven. It submitted the necessary financial documentation – the FCC prefers tax returns and received that and more. The FCC determined that the licensee was well-funded enough to pay a fine, but maybe not so big a fine, and reduced its penalty to $8.7K. The FCC’s reasoning was that after averaging out the licensee’s income, the $15K would have amounted to 9%, and it believes that anything above 5% is excessive, hence the reduction.

The second instance involved WSMC-FM Collegedale TN, licensed to Southern Adventist University. It didn’t have a problem with alien board members, but it did have a problem with issues/program lists in its public file, and was hit with the standard $10K fine. SAU asked that the fine be forgiven for a number of reasons, all of which fell on deaf ears.

However, it was granted a $2K reduction based on its record of past compliance, for a final assessment of $8K.

RBR-TVBR observation: Of course, it is never a pleasant matter to fork over thousands of dollars to the FCC for any reason – and it is particularly unpleasant when the station is part of a small operation and even more unpleasant when the nation is in the throes of a bad economy. If you are at a station right now, and you aren’t sure who is minding the public file, that is something that should be remedied right away.