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AM Stations Face Forfeiture for Late License Renewals

The two AM stations serve Cullman in north central Alabama

An Alabama licensee is facing a forfeiture of $6,000 for failing to file renewal applications on time.

Jimmy Dale Media LLC was required to file a renewal application for its two stations — WFMH(AM) and WMCJ(AM) — on Dec. 2, 2019. That date meets the Federal Communications Commission requirement that a license renewal should be filed no later than the first day of the fourth calendar month prior to expiration of the license.

In this case, the Media Bureau said the applications were filed on March 30, 2020. Initially, the bureau said, Jimmy Dale Media gave no explanation for the late filing. But in an amendment to the application filed on July 16, 2020, the licensee said that it was struggling financially and working days and many nights to keep the station on air. The licensee also stated that he was not advised by legal counsel as to the FCC rules for the license renewal process. The licensee has since joined the Alabama Broadcasters Association in an effort to stay up to date on filing deadlines and other requirements and indicated that the company “will sincerely endeavor to comply with all FCC rules and regulations” in the future.

[Read: Failure to File a Renewal Application Trips Up Two Licensees in Louisiana]

In response, the Media Bureau applauded the licensee’s efforts to ensure compliance with the commission’s rules going forward. But these efforts do not excuse or mitigate the violations. FCC rules and the commission’s own Forfeiture Policy Statement establishes a base forfeiture amount of $3,000 for failing to file a required form in a timely manner. The bureau may also adjust that amount based on the gravity of the violation and the degree of culpability.

In this case, the licensee did not dispute that the renewal applications were filed late. And the commission does not give do-overs to those who violate the rules because they were unaware of the guidelines. In addition, even though the licensee said the stations were struggling financially, it provided no documentation that would allow the commission to evaluate the licensee’s ability to pay.

“The commission has repeatedly held that corrective action taken to come into compliance with the rules is expected, and does not nullify or mitigate any prior forfeitures or violations,” the bureau said.

Based on those factors, the commission proposed the full $3,000 forfeiture amount for each late-filed application for a total of $6,000. The commission said it would grant the renewal applications after the forfeiture had been paid — assuming that no other issues arise.

The FCC’s action is a notice of apparent liability for forfeiture. The broadcaster has 30 days to pay or file an argument on why the penalty should be reduced or cancelled.