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Failing to Notify FCC of Primary Station Change Proves Costly

Though the violation was short-lived, the commission handed out a $2,000 notice of proposed forfeiture to a N.C. translator licensee

It’s important for a licensee to notify the Federal Communications Commission of certain licensing changes. Otherwise it can turn into a costly mistake.

In this case, Carolina Radio Group applied for a construction permit for a translator in Raleigh, N.C. and specified WQDR(FM) as the translator’s primary station. After the Media Bureau granted the permit application and then the license application, a Petition for Reconsideration was filed by Triangle Access Broadcasting who said that not only was there was no technical need for the translator but that the translator was not being operated as authorized. Specifically, Triangle’s said that the CRG translator was broadcasting an unauthorized station.

[Read: FCC to Two AM Licensees: Pay Fees or Nixed Licenses Could Be Next]

In response, CRG said that no “technical need” showing was required and that the translator was currently rebroadcasting the signal of WQDR. However, CRG did not respond to Triangle’s claim that the translator had previously rebroadcast the signal of a different station.

Upon investigation, the Media Bureau found that when the translator commenced operations, it was rebroadcasting WPLW(AM) rather than WQDR. For about a month, CRG’s translator had been broadcasting a station other than its approved station, which is a violation of failure-to-file rules and the unauthorized broadcasting rule book.

The Media Bureau also found that CRG did not properly notify the commission of this change.

As a result, the bureau proposed a forfeiture for CRG of $2,000. Although the commission had the authority to establish a base forfeiture of up to $7,000 (for two violations: failure to file and unauthorized broadcasting) the Media Bureau said a reduced forfeiture was appropriate in this case. “We reach this conclusion based on the fact that CRG’s violations were not prolonged and the fact that CRG has no history of prior offenses,” the bureau said in its ruling.

The Media Bureau also moved to dismiss Triangle’s request that it reconsider the  licensing of CRG’s translator. Under FCC rules, a permittee “is entitled to a high degree of protection” and presumption that public interest is being served during the construction permit process — unless circumstances arise that would make operation of the station against the public interest. That’s not the case here, the bureau said.

As a result, the Media Bureau proposed a $2,000 forfeiture for CRG. The licensee has 30 days to pay the full amount or file a written statement explaining why it deserves reduction or cancellation of the forfeiture.