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$25,000 Fine Sticks for Pacific Empire

Three years'-worth of public file negligence costs Oregon broadcaster big bucks

The FCC reaffirmed a $25,000 fine for Pacific Empire Radio Corp.

Pacific is the licensee of five Oregon stations: KLBM(AM) and KUBQ(FM) in La Grande, KBKR(AM) and KKBC(FM) in Baker and KRJT(FM) in Elgin.

The commission levied the penalty initially in 2012 for three years of missing issues/program lists from the public file for the stations.

Pacific Empire doesn’t deny the violations, but had asked that they be reduced or cancelled. The licensee had argued that the proposed forfeiture is “excessive” when compared to fines for other public file violations, and insisting on the “relative insignificance” of its transgression.

The missing files were originally discovered during an inspection. The commission says in its decision its rules specify that the public file “shall be available for public inspection at any time during regular business hours.” The issues/programs list, part of that file, “must include ‘a brief narrative describing what issues were given significant treatment and the programming that provided this treatment,’ including, but not limited to, the time, date, duration, and title of each program in which the issue was treated,” says the FCC in its decision. Copies of the issues/programs list must be retained in the public inspection file until final action has been taken on the station’s next license renewal application.

Pacific Empire told the inspector the three years’ worth of missing documents for all of the stations were either absent or misplaced because of management changes.

The commission found no merit in the licensee’s arguments, noting the fine is consistent with current procedure and precedent. Issues/program lists “enable citizens to determine whether local broadcast facilities are assessing and addressing the uniquely local concerns and issues affecting the station’s community of license,” according to the commission.

The licensee must pay within 30 days or the case may be referred to the Department of Justice for collection.