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Kansas Broadcaster Enters Consent Decree

FCC agreed to a one-year renewal for five stations and $7,000 civil penalty

A Kansas broadcaster has agreed to a consent decree with the Federal Communications Commission that will allow the licensee to renew several of its stations’ licenses and to reassign one FM station to a different entity.

But the consent decree also includes a $7,000 civil penalty that the broadcaster must file before Jan. 1, 2022.

In a Memorandum Opinion and Order issued by the Audio Division of the Media Bureau, the bureau reminded Rocking M Media that FCC rules require broadcast stations to adhere to minimum operating requirements. And in cases where limited or discontinued operation has taken place, the licensee must request special temporary authorization to be permitted to be quiet longer than 30 days.

In addition, any station that is silent for 12 consecutive months will automatically forfeit its license, unless the commission is involved with extending or reinstating the station’s license.

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Rocking M Media filed six renewal applications, as required, before the stations’ licenses were set to expire on June 1, 2021. At the time, Rocking M revealed that each station had been off the air for substantial periods without an STA, although none of the stations had been silent for 12 consecutive months, the broadcaster said.

In 2020, Audio Division Chief Albert Shuldiner sent an inquiry letter after learning that some of the Rocking M stations might be silent without authority. Soon after, Rocking M filed a request for and was granted STAs for a six-month period.

The licensee also acknowledged periods of silence without authority, which it attributed to eviction from the stations’ shared studio location, a failed multistation sale, financial difficulties, and inadvertence by its manager and a contract engineer.

As part of its research, the bureau compiled a chart listing the dates and percent of time the stations were off the air — including the amount of time the station was off the air without an STA. According to the Media Bureau, time spent off the air during the discussed time period ranged from a low of 8 percent to a high of 38 percent. When it came to operating without an STA, one station was off the air 25 percent during that time period, adding up to a total of 329 days.

As part of the order, the bureau and the licensee adopted a consent decree that resolves issues related to the station’s failure to receive an STA. The bureau also agreed to a reassignment application that would grant the KKGQ(FM) renewal application to Pinnacle Media LLC.

The bureau also found that for those stations with a significant record of silence during its past license term — which included KKLE(AM), KIBB(FM), KLEY(AM), KVWF(FM), KWME (FM) and translator K262CQ — the FCC would only agree to renew the license for a one-year term due to a “record of failing to serve the public during [the stations’] substantial periods of silence,” the bureau said.

The bureau, however, concluded that the licensee still possesses the basic qualifications to be a commission licensee. As a result, Rocking M agreed to pay a civil penalty of $7,000 to finalize the consent decree.