Recent decisions by the FCC demonstrate continued enforcement against broadcast licensees who violate the FCC's rules. Below are two examples of recent enforcement actions.
License Rescinded for Failure to Satisfy Condition and Unauthorized Construction
The FCC exercised its strongest enforcement tool of rescinding a license where an FM Translator licensee failed to build its FM Translator as authorized, and to satisfy a condition on its construction permit to construct permanent facilities.
Construction permits include a standard condition requiring continuous operation for the first year after construction. Under this condition, requesting authority to take a station off the air within the first year is considered evidence of temporary construction.
By submitting a request for temporary authority to remain silent within the station’s first year of operation, the licensee triggered the presumption of temporary construction. In responding to an FCC inquiry, the licensee acknowledged it did not construct at the site specified in its license or in accordance with its construction permit, and that it had built the station at an RV site 30 yards from the authorized site.
The FCC found that the licensee failed to satisfy the license condition due to the temporary nature of its station facilities. The FCC therefore rescinded the license. The decision also noted that the licensee provided false information in its license application by stating it had completed construction at the authorized location.
$6,000 Fine for Unauthorized Transfer of Control
In 2020, the licensee of an FM station in Mississippi applied for FCC approval to transfer 55% of its stock from two shareholders to a third shareholder who already owned 45% of the company. The asset purchase agreements submitted with the applications indicated that the stock transfers had already occurred.
FCC rules require a licensee to obtain prior consent before any voluntary assignment or transfer of control. The FCC concluded that the transfer at issue violated this rule and entered into a consent decree with the licensee. The consent decree included a $6,000 civil penalty against the licensee.
If you have questions about FCC rule enforcement, or compliance with the FCC’s broadcast and media rules in general, please contact an attorney in our Media practice group.