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Hawaiian Station Limited to Single-Year Renewal After Unauthorized Silence

The AM station entered into a consent decree with the FCC after remaining silent for 890 days

It’s not all paradise for an AM station in Hawaii after the Federal Communications Commission granted the station only a one-year renewal of its license — instead of a full term of eight years — for staying silent without authorization.

Radio Hawaii submitted an application to renew its license for station KWAI(AM) in Honolulu. After reviewing the application and other commission-related records, the Media Bureau discovered that the station had been silent for 890 days during the license term that started on Oct. 10, 2014, and ended Oct. 1, 2021.

In its communication with the licensee, the bureau reminded Radio Hawaii that unauthorized silence of this type is a “fundamental failure” in a station’s promise to serve its community of license. A silent station offers that community no public service programming such as news, public affairs, weather information and emergency alert notifications, the bureau said. Even brief periods of station operation that is sandwiched between prolonged periods of silence are of little value because the local audience is not accustomed to tuning into a station’s frequency, it continued. 

If, when determining whether to grant a station’s license renewal application, the Media Bureau finds that a station has not served the public interest or there have been violations of either the Communications Act or FCC Rules, the commission may outright deny the application or grant the application on certain terms and conditions.

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In the case of Radio Hawaii and KWAI, the licensee’s conduct has fallen short of that which would warrant a routine license renewal. As a result the bureau agreed to enter into a consent decree with Radio Hawaii that includes a short-term license renewal. This limited renewal gives the commission the opportunity to review the station’s public service performance and to determine whether it has complied with the rules moving forward. 

As part of that consent decree, Radio Hawaii must designate a compliance officer to develop and administer the compliance plan, which includes creation of a compliance manual, creation of a compliance training program and submission of a compliance report to the bureau a year after the compliance program kicks off.