A station licensee faces a $17,500 monetary forfeiture after discontinuing operation of its station and translator without permission and for failing to upload items to its online public inspection file on time.
In January 2020, Southfield, Mich.-based Birach Broadcasting Corp. filed a license renewal application for KTUV(AM) in Little Rock, Ark., and its FM translator, K260DT. At the time, Birach certified that there had been no violations during the license term and that the stations had not been silent for any period longer than 30 days. The licensee also said the stations were currently on the air.
On March 6, 2020, due to what it called “catastrophic failure of its transmitter,” KTUV and K260DT went silent. FCC rules require radio stations to notify the commission within 10 days of temporarily discontinuing operations and must obtain commission authorization to stay silent longer than 30 days.
But an objection filed by an individual on May 20, 2020, revealed the stations were apparently still off the air. Birach balked at the objection, saying that although K260DT was silent, “requests for silent authority are on file.” And while Birach filed requests for a special temporary authority for its stations, those STAs were filed after the initial objection was filed.
The FCC Media Bureau reiterated in its Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture that Birach did not have the authority to remain silent between April 6 (a month after the transmitter failure) and May 22 when it filed the STA. KTUV resumed operations on July 29, 2020, and K260DT on Sept. 25, 2020.
Among the missteps here: Birach should have notified the FCC of the discontinued operations by March 17, 2020, and it should have filed STAs for each station by April 5. As a result, the bureau found that Birach willfully and repeatedly violated FCC rules.
In a separate incident, the bureau also found KTUV failed to properly maintain its online public inspection file — specifically by failing to upload on time its issues/programs list for 2018, as well as lists for the first and fourth quarters of 2019. In addition, the bureau found several issues/programs lists were missing, including the third quarter of 2020 as well as the first, second and third quarters of 2021.
The bureau also noted that Birach failed to provide accurate and complete information to its pending application. FCC rules state that within 30 days, an applicant must update a pending application if information is no longer accurate. In this case, the application was filed on Jan. 29, 2020, and remains pending. As a result, Birach should have amended its application — and it did not do so.
The bureau moved to propose a monetary forfeiture for each of the licensee’s apparent violations of allowing two stations to remain silent for two-and-a-half months without authorization, failing to update its pending application and failing to upload on time its issues/program lists for KTUV.
As a result, the bureau proposed a total forfeiture of $17,500. At the same time, the bureau did not find the violations serious enough to warrant an evidentiary hearing that could potentially impact approval of Birach’s application renewals. Given the importance of keeping a radio station’s online public files updated, however, the bureau said the application grant is conditioned on Birach submitting a report regarding KTUV’s compliance with public file requirements.
Birach has 30 days to pay the full amount or file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation.