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Liberty University Loses FM License

FCC takes action due to improper operations, statements

The FCC and Liberty University adopted a consent decree on Sept. 29, 2023, revoking the license of student-run station WQLU(FM). Under the agreement, Liberty will also pay a $10,000 civil penalty.

The consent agreement was reached after the FCC determined there was a “substantial and material question of fact as to whether Licensee possesses the basic qualifications to continue to be a Commission licensee.”

Liberty University, a Lynchburg, Va.-based Christian university, was first licensed to operated WQLU from a transmission site on Candler Mountain in 1993. From September 2011 to Oct. 2, 2017, the station had a special temporary authority to operate from Monogram Hill, about 0.8 miles northeast of the Candler Mountain site.

In July 2019, the FCC processed an unopposed application to renew the station’s license; however, a year later, the station sought a new STA to operate from Monogram Hill. In investigating the request, the FCC realized the prior STA had lapsed and discovered that the tower on Candler Mountain had been dismantled.

In response to a letter of inquiry, Liberty University stated that after the lapse of the STA, WQLU had returned to operating “with its licensed facilities” as of Oct. 3, 2017. While the station had returned to Candler Mountain, it was operating from a different tower, located at 37°20’57.8″N, 79°10’4.8″W, instead of its licensed 37°20’56″N, 79°10’4″W. The new tower coordinates were included on the new license issued for the station in December 2020.

Based upon the investigation, the FCC and Liberty entered into a consent agreement, acknowledging that the school “violated (1) section 301 of the Act, and section 73.1350 of the Commission’s Rules (Rules) by operating the Station at a variance from its licensed parameters, and (2) section 1.17(a)(2) of the Rules by making incorrect statements regarding the Station’s operations to the Commission.” Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934 prohibits the use or operation of a radio transmitter in a manner not authorized by the FCC, such as from an unlicensed location.

In return for closing the investigation, Liberty agreed to surrender the license for WQLU and to pay a civil fine of $10,000 to the U.S. Treasury. Both terms of the agreement must be completed within 30 days of the Sept. 29, 2023, adoption of the consent agreement.

[Read more Radio World coverage of FCC actions here.]