Stations run afoul of children’s rules


Kids watching TVA full power television station in Augusta GA and a Class A station in western North Carolina had compliance problems related to required reports on their children’s programming. Both are facing hefty fines.

The full power station is NBC WAGT-TV in Augusta, owned by Schurz Communications. The Class A is WTBL-CD Lenoir NC, licensed to Ernesto Bustos.

WAGT seems to have kept its reports, filed them properly with the FCC and also placed them properly in its public file. Its infraction was failing to adequately publicize their existence and location adequately. This is the second license term during which the infraction occurred.

The licensee detailed a compliance plan and pledged corrective action, but the result was still a $10K notice of apparent liability for what the FCC is treating as a public file violation.

In the case of WTBL-CD, as with many other Class As, the reports were not only not in the public file, they were not sent to the FCC. That’s two fines, $10K for the public file failure and $3K for failing to file a required report. Bustos has been hit with an NAL for $13K.

RBR-TVBR observation: Class As face a huge risk when they fail to follow the rules. Many Class As in 2012 not only were found apparently guilty of the a children’s program infraction, they also failed to answer inquiries from the FCC – and the result was having their station degraded from Class A to LPTV status.

That sacrifices the much greater legal protection enjoyed by Class As over that held by the LPTV class; and further, Class As have the right to participate in the upcoming incentive auctions, while LPTVs do not.
That is likely not an issue with WTBL – it is in a rural area northwest of Charlotte and northeast of Asheville without being particularly close to either. It is not likely to be a hotbed of spectrum bidding.

Nonetheless, Bustos played by the rules and is being allowed to pay a fine rather than lose Class A status. Other stations that didn’t mind their regulatory obligations have not been so lucky.