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Investigation Into Alaska Radio Station Resolved With Consent Decree

A faulty transmitter leads KVHZ(AM) to pay a $4,000 penalty

A malfunctioning transmitter was at the root of a series of violations that caught up to an Alaskan AM station and its FM translator — but a consent decree with the Federal Communications Commission and a reduced civil penalty payment resolved the situation.

In September 2020, according to an FCC summary, the commission received a complaint alleging that station KVHZ(AM) in Wasilla had been off the air for an extended period and that its translator station, K296FP in Willow Creek, had been originating programming while KVHZ was silent.

The Media Bureau sent inquiries to the stations’ licensee regarding the stations’ operational status. Shortly after the first inquiry, WorthRome LLC (which acquired the stations in September 2021) filed a request for special temporary authority (STA) to operate KVHZ with reduced power; the bureau granted that request. 

Soon after, the licensee began submitting records of the AM station’s weekly emergency alert system to show the station was not silent for extended periods. But from there, other violations were discovered. 

The bureau found that KVHZ had been off the air approximately 18 days over eight periods in 2021 and 2022 and that the FM translator continued to operate during those periods. Also, there were additional periods over a summer and winter when KVHZ operated, but at reduced power due to a problem with its transmitter. And while KVHZ’s periods of discontinued operations did not stretch over any 30-day period, it may have exceeded 10 days.

The Media Bureau did not receive a request (prior to the April 2022 STA) asking to operate at discontinued or reduced power. The bureau and WorthRome agreed to a consent decree to resolve the investigation into the stations’ compliance.

Both the Communications Act and FCC rules require a licensee to notify the commission within a certain time period if it finds a station must limit or discontinue operations. In addition, FCC rules prohibit an FM translator station from originating programming while its primary station is off the air. 

In the consent decree, WorthRome admits that KVHZ operated with reduced daytime power, discontinued operations at times, limited its operating hours without commission authorization and originated programming on its FM translator when KVHZ was not in operation.

The bureau proposed a $7,000 civil penalty. WorthRome responded by requesting a reduction, saying it has been operating at a loss since taking possession in 2021. Even with its principal members agreeing to take no salary, WorthRome said, the licensee did not have the ability to pay the full amount. 

After reviewing the situation — and acknowledging that the primary cause of the violation was a malfunctioning transmitter that the licensee made arrangements to replace — the bureau found that the licensee’s limited funds would best be used to bring the stations into compliance.

The licensee must make a $4,000 civil penalty payment, with the remainder of the suspended. However, if over the next three years the commission finds that WorthRome misled the commission regarding its financial status, it will be required to pay the remainder of the $7,000. 

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