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Almost Four Years Later, Appeal Is Denied

North Dakota broadcaster must pay in public file cases it appealed in 2005

The Federal Communications Commission continues to issue rulings in some pretty ancient cases. But two lessons remain clear: You gotta keep your public file current. And if you didn’t, you shouldn’t expect sympathy just because you turned yourself in on the license renewal form.

A North Dakota broadcaster will have to pony up $18,000 in FCC fines in two related public file cases even though the company told the FCC the fines would be “devastating.”

The initial notices of apparent liability — two fines, each for $9,000 — were issued almost four years ago, in May of 2005. The FCC now has rejected the appeals from Chesterman Communications of Jamestown, licensee of KSJB(AM) and KSJZ(FM) in Jamestown, N.D.

This is yet another instance in which a broadcaster apparently realized only when it went to submit renewal paperwork that it had not kept proper documentation in its public file — in this case several years’ worth of issues/programs lists — and told the commission so as required on its renewal form, only to find itself fined.

Chesterman had appealed, arguing that the violations were not intentional, that it had disclosed the violations voluntarily in its application, that it took immediate corrective action and that payment would be an extreme financial hardship.

In its appeal, the broadcaster also pointed out that it had even participated in a voluntary mock inspection program by the state broadcasting association and said the public file deficiencies had not been not brought to management’s attention.

The FCC rejected Chesterman’s arguments, reiterating that filling out a renewal form truthfully is not a voluntary disclosure and saying the company also didn’t substantiate its claim that the fines would be an extreme hardship.