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California Broadcaster Issued $20,000 Forfeiture

KSCO's ongoing, non-conforming nighttime operations violate commission rules

The FCC Media Bureau has issued a $20,000 forfeiture to Zweling Broadcasting System for operating its radio station KSCO(AM) at a different power at night than what was approved. In its forfeiture order, the bureau said Zwerling willfully and repeatedly violated Section 301 of the Communications Act.

According to the FCC account, Zwerling has admitted that, despite being licensed to operate at night in directional mode at 5 kW, KSCO has been operating in non-directional mode at night with a power of 1 kW. In its initial communications with the commission, Zwerling said the AM station has operated in this manner for the entirety of its current license term, and continues to do so.

The non-conforming nighttime operations violate commission rules. On Sept. 7, 2022, Zwerling requested STA to continue to operate non-directionally at night with reduced power. The FCC chose to deny that request because Zwerling did “not provide a justification for the need to operate with an alternate antenna system and reduced power during nighttime hours.”

The bureau had previously warned Zwerling that the station needed to “return to licensed operation or to file FCC Form 301 for modification of its nighttime facilities.”

[Related: “FCC Sends $20,000 NAL to California Broadcaster“]

In mid-October, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) for $20,000 to the California broadcaster, as previously reported by Radio World, pending formal argument from the licensee. The station had 30 days to respond, explain or ask for a reduction, which it did on Nov. 16., asking the commission to reduce or cancel the proposed forfeiture.

The bureau declined this request, stating in its order: “Zwerling has not demonstrated that any of the downward adjustment factors are applicable here. Instead, Zwerling cites the fact that the station’s non-conforming operations allowed it to ‘serve those in our broadcast area
who would not otherwise have had access to the news and information they needed.’ While this may be true, it does not excuse or mitigate Zwerling’s violations of the Act and the Rules.”

Further, while inability to pay could justify reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture, the FCC said Zwerling has offered no evidence of an inability to pay other than a statement that it has served its community “with very little financial return.”

In the NAL, the bureau noted that the base forfeiture for operating without an instrument
of authorization is $10,000, and the base forfeiture for failure to file required forms or information is $3,000.

In its notice, the bureau said it deemed the $20,000 forfeiture appropriate given that the station’s non-conforming operations spanned the entirety of its current license term, and continued to that day, and, second, the violations were intentional and continued after commission staff specifically instructed Zwerling that it needed to take appropriate steps to bring the station into compliance.