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FM Translator Owner in Chicago Faces $8,000 Forfeiture

FCC says the station failed to update its application or request an STA in a timely manner

The licensee of an FM translator in Chicago is facing a possible $8,000 forfeiture after several anomalies were discovered during its license renewal process.

The commission says these problems came to light when an individual, Albert Adam David, filed an objection to the renewal application, saying that Windy City Broadcasting, licensee of W280EM, made false statements in its application.

David said that the July 2020 application not only failed to reveal that the signal had been silent since May of that year, but that it failed to request special temporary authority for such a move.

He said Windy City falsely claimed it had been rebroadcasting station WTMX for several years. Instead, David said the station had been rebroadcasting the HD2 of WLEY. He asked the commission to deny the application.

Windy City told the FCC that the objection should be dismissed on procedural grounds because he did not properly serve it to the licensee. It also said it had amended its application to reflect that the station had gone silent and that it had been rebroadcasting WLEY, not WTMX, prior to going off the air. It said the failures were inadvertent and have since been corrected.

David responded saying there’s no requirement to serve his informal objections to the licensee, which he submitted through the FCC’s Licensing and Management System. He said that since Windy City acknowledged it had made false certifications and was silent without authorization, the Media Bureau should dismiss the renewal.

In August 2021, Windy City alerted the Media Bureau that the station had resumed operations and changed its primary station to WOJO(HD2).

The Media Bureau found that David’s objection meets the procedural requirements for an informal objection and that the objection did not need to be served on the licensee. Filing the objection using the LMS system includes the proper certifications, the bureau said, so it rejected Windy City’s call to toss it.

The bureau agreed with David that the station had been improperly silent. The rules require an FM translator licensee to notify the commission of intent to discontinue operations for 10 or more consecutive days. They also say commission approval is required for discontinued operations for longer than 30 days.

In this case, the translator was silent for almost a year (Aug. 17, 2020, until Aug. 4, 2021). The licensee should have notified the commission of discontinued operation by Aug. 27, 2020. The bureau also said Windy City failed to request an STA on time.

It further decided that Windy City failed to keep its pending application updated. When information in a pending application is no longer accurate, the applicant must amend it within 30 days, but the FCC said Windy City did not do so for more than three months. It also failed to amend the application within 30 days after it resumed operations to reflect that it was back on air and rebroadcasting WOJO.

It found that Windy City had been rebroadcasting an unauthorized primary station for a significant period of time and failed to notify the commission of this change.

The bureau has since issued a notice of apparent violation with a $8,000 forfeiture. But it said the violations were not serious enough to warrant an evidentiary hearing, and it found no pattern of abuse in Windy City’s actions. So it said it would grant the renewal once this forfeiture proceeding is resolved.

Windy City has 30 days to pay or file a statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the fine.