The Federal Communications Commission has decided to adopt a consent decree and grant a translator construction permit application despite a series of objections filed by two separate entities.
Back in February 2016, the FCC issued a construction permit license to Rocket Radio Corp. (RRC) for translator K246CH in Tuba City, Ariz., a town of 8,600 within Arizona’s picturesque Painted Desert. The new translator was to serve as a fill-in translator for KIKO(AM), a country music station serving Apache Junction, Ariz.
After the license was granted, an informal objection was raised by Linda C. Corso, owner of KRDE(FM), a country music station in nearby San Carlos, Ariz.
In the midst of all this, RRC filed an application to make minor changes to the translator’s licensed facilities, a move that prompted another entity — this time Mountain Community Translators (MCT) — to file an informal objection.
The FCC agreed with some of the assertions filed by these two licensees. But it dismissed other claims and said the Media Bureau would enter into a consent decree with RRC to resolve issues that were raised during the FCC’s review of the applications.
But there’s a hefty penalty that comes with this consent decree in the form of a $15,000 civil penalty. The FCC also said that not only must RRC pay the civil penalty in a timely manner but must also submit to probationary oversight if it applied to build any other facilities over the next three years.
All this began when the FCC approved RRC’s request to change its translator’s channel to Channel 275 during a 2016 filing window for FM translator modification applications. In April of that year RRC filed a license application and submitted a program test letter saying that it had begun program tests with the translator at the station.
Soon after an objection was filed by Corso who said that RRC broke several rules: It did not construct the facilities authorized in the permit, it violated the commission’s rules governing station identification, and it made false certifications and statements in its license application and the program test letter.
In response, RRC revised its certifications in an amended license application in July 2017 to reflect that the facilities constructed did vary from those authorized in the permit. RRC said it was unaware that the translator’s facilities had not been constructed as authorized and it assured the FCC that the translator has been operating with authorized parameters since October 2016.
Corso fired back again. In another objection she accused RRC and several of its employees of witness intimidation and harassment, and said RRC deliberately concealed facts from the commission. She also asked several questions: why was the translator not constructed as authorized? And how could RCC be unaware of this?
In June 2018, RRC filed a minor change application asking to increase the translator’s power and change its channel. Soon after, another objection arose from MCT which alleged that RRC made a false certification in its application. In July of that year, RRC filed an application to modify the permit to specify the same power increase and channel change proposed in the minor change application. MCT objected to that application too.
Upon review of the objections, the FCC rejected several of Corso’s allegations. The commission did not find that the translator was operating with a different antenna and at a different power than specified in its permit. The commission also found no merit to Corso’s allegation that the translator violated the commission’s rules governing station identification or her allegations that RRC made misrepresentations to the commission.
The commission did find, though, that the facilities constructed were not those authorized in the permit and that RRC violated sections of the commission’s rules.
Specifically, the commission found that for six months in 2016, the translator’s antenna was mounted at the wrong height and oriented in the wrong direction. By starting program tests with nonconforming facilities, RRC also violated the Communications Act and FCC Rules. Plus, the commission found that that RRC further violated the rules by failing to amend its license application in a timely manner and failed to correct the program test letter to reflect that the facilities constructed were not those specified in the permit.
The FCC also rejected MCT’s assessment that RRC made a false claim that it did not have an authorization for an FM translator station that served the same area and was rebroadcasting the same signal as the translator. While MCT correctly noted that RRC is the licensee of another FM translator — K247CF in Payson, Ariz. — that serves substantially the same area as the facilities authorized in the permit, the two translators have not rebroadcast the signal of the same primary station at the same time. K247CF only began rebroadcasting the translator’s primary station when the translator went off the air in May 2018. The FCC also concluded that RCC did not make misrepresentations or false statements to the commission.
As a result of its findings, the Media Bureau entered into a consent decree with RRC based on its unauthorized construction of the translator and its violations of FCC rules. RRC agreed to pay a civil penalty of $15,000. The consent decree also stipulates that RRC will have an outside broadcast engineer come and examine any facilities that RRC constructs or operates and that this engineer will review technical parameters of any future facilities that RRC constructs over the next three years.