A unique combination of an unsupervised tower structure and a radio contest gone awry led the Enforcement Bureau to levy a $125,000 civil penalty against a Florida broadcaster as part of a consent decree.
Magic Broadcasting II LLC was the subject of two investigations by two units within the Federal Communications Commission — the Enforcement Bureau and the Investigation and Hearings Division (IHD).
In 2018 the IHD began investigating a complaint that alleged that Magic Broadcasting’s station WILN(FM) failed to conduct radio contests in a fair manner. In the first instance, a complainant suggested that winners of an on-air radio contest were preselected. A scavenger hunt-like contest called Troll Tracker was initiated by WILN and ran for several weeks, even though the bureau alleged that a female listener allegedly solved the puzzle early on and was asked to sign nondisclosure agreements so that the station could continue the contest and entice the broadcast audience to keep listening through a long, drawn-out competition.
Likewise, in a second contest called Alexa Almighty, the station offered callers the chance to win prizes if they called into the station at certain times of day. But according to a complaint filed with IHD, it was impossible for the station to have conducted the contest as advertised because there was no live DJ on-air at the time the listeners were asked to call in. “Instead the station allegedly aired prerecorded calls between station employees and their friends posting as contest participants,” the IHD complaint states.
In these two cases, even though the Enforcement Bureau issued a letter of inquiry to Magic Broadcasting to seek more information, Magic Broadcasting could neither confirm or deny the truth of the allegations. The bureau said Magic also did not provide any evidence to rebut the issues in the complaint, although the broadcaster was repeated asked about these matters.
A second, unrelated issue appeared when, in September 2019, the Enforcement Bureau received an anonymous field complaint that an antenna structure had not been properly lit for more than a year. An agent from the bureau’s Miami Field Office investigated and determined that Magic Broadcasting station WVFT(FM) was licensed to operate from that antenna structure.
Magic Broadcasting admitted that it failed to monitor the state of the lighting system over a period of 453 days as required by FCC Rules, that it failed to immediately notify the Federal Aviation Administration that a light was out on the antenna structure as required by FCC Rules and that it failed to notify the commission of its acquisition in 2012 of the entire antenna structure itself.
Both of these two issues were resolved when Magic Broadcasting and the Enforcement Bureau agreed to enter into a consent decree. As part of the deal, Magic agreed to comply with several stipulations including that it create internal procedures to ensure compliance of the lighting system rules of the antenna structure, create internal procedures to ensure compliance with contest laws and live broadcast rules, and develop a compliance manual and training program for all employees to ensure the company complies with FCC Rules.
As part of the consent decree, Magic is also required to report any noncompliance with the aforementioned rules within 15 days of discovery of such noncompliance. Magic must also file compliance reports with the commission several times over the next five years.
In addition to following compliance procedures, Magic also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $125,000 in 20 installments of $6,250, the first of which is due 30 days after the effective date of the consent decree. If Magic defaults on any of the payments, the unpaid amount will accrue interest and the remaining amount will become immediately due.