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Alaska Licensee Surrenders FM License but Separate $8,000 Fine Remains

Media Bureau says licensee allegedly engaged in unauthorized silences

It’s been quite a week for the licensee Alaska Educational Radio System Inc.

The Seward, Alaska-based licensee was served with an $8,000 forfeiture on October 17 for allegedly violating sections of the FCC Rules that surround illegal discontinuation of operations — despite AERS’ claim that it was unaware of the violations and that it does not have the financial backing to make such a payment.

On the same day, another steep notice of liability — in the neighborhood of $20,000 — was cancelled after AERS moved to surrender its FM license outright.

[Read: Michigan FM Liable for $18,000 After Unauthorized Operation and Filing Woes]

Earlier, the Federal Communications Commission handed a $20,000 Notice of Apparent Liability for a Forfeiture to AERS, which was owner of the noncommercial educational station KABN(FM) in Kasilof, Alaska. The forfeiture was handed out for allegedly discontinuing operations outright on five separate occasions as well as operating the station at a variance from its licensed parameters on four occasions.

AERS responded by surrendering the license of KABN in mid-July, leading Media Bureau staff to cancel both the station license and the $20,000 fine on October 17.

The same day, AERS was handed a separate forfeiture for $8,000 for allegedly improperly discontinuing operations of Alaska FM translator stations K223BJ in Eagle River and K283AZ in Anchorage on four different occasions without proper authority.

Originally, the bureau found AERS liable for a forfeiture $10,000 for violations against three translator stations (K223BJ, K283AZ and K300BY), but the Media Bureau cancelled that last forfeiture after AERS surrendered the translator’s license for K300BY in Willow Creek, Alaska.

AERS responded to the original $10,000 forfeiture by requesting reduction of the forfeiture. Not only was it unaware of the violations, AERS said, but the proposed forfeiture is “disproportionate” because the translators’ violations stemmed from “a single source” — meaning a silence at the translators’ primary station.

AERS also stated that it was not in a financial position to pay such a fine, saying that its annual operating budget is less than $1,000 for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017, and that its fixed assets amount to less than $20,000.

But the Media Bureau rejected the argument that AERS was unaware of the violations. “The fact that AERS was unaware of the violations does not serve to excuse or mitigate them,” the bureau said.

The bureau also rejected AERS’ argument that that the proposed forfeiture is disproportionate since all of the unauthorized silences stemmed from the silence of a single originating facility. Commission’s records indicate that this was not the case, the bureau said, saying that K223BJ rebroadcast the signal of KABN, while K283AZ and K300BY rebroadcast the signals of other stations. KABN and K300BY now get the ignominious scarlet letter D of deletion and are henceforth to be known as DKABN and DK300BY.

The bureau also rejected AERS’ claim of financial hardship and said it will not consider cancelling a forfeiture unless documents like tax returns or other financial statements are provided. Although AERS indicated it would provide financial statements for the previous three years by September 2017, the Media Bureau said it has not received any such statements.

AERS now has 30 days to submit the $8,000 forfeiture to the FCC.

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