WASHINGTON � The FCC recently issued a consent decree with a broadcaster that owns multiple broadcast licenses, many of which were silent for long periods of time during the last license renewal cycle. The point of the deal was to get renewals for 12 of its stations, but at the same time, that licensee had to agree to either surrender the licenses for nine other stations or to donate them to nonprofit groups. The licenses that were renewed were done so on a short-term basis (one year), so the FCC could monitor whether these stations were truly going to be operated in compliance with the FCC�s minimum operating rules, according to this recent broadcastlawblog.com.
�We have written about cases where the FCC has penalized stations who sought the renewal of the licenses of stations that had prolonged periods of silence during the prior license renewal term…this case provides much more detail as to the FCC�s thinking in these cases, and provides a warning to broadcasters who might take their stations silent for extended periods that they may not be able to justify to the FCC that they have served the public interest sufficiently to merit the next renewal of their license,� writes David Oxenford, in the blog entry.
There have been numerous decisions warning broadcasters against prolonged periods of silence on a broadcast station, even if authorized by the FCC through an STA.
�A broadcaster, in order to receive a license renewal, must show that it has served the needs and interests of its community of license and service area. If the station is off the air for but a few days when it pops back on to save its license, there is little time to provide any substantial service to the community…� the same blog goes on to say. �Prolonged periods of silence risk a station�s license � so be sure that you are operating and serving the public interest.�