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Licensee Faces $20K Fine for Misuse of FM Translator

FCC says non-profit also made false certifications

The FCC says a Washington state radio broadcaster is apparently liable for a monetary forfeiture of $20,000 for unauthorized operations of an FM translator and for making false certifications in an application with the intent to deceive the FCC.

The Media Bureau has found that Northwest Rock N Roll Preservation Society (NWR), a non-profit group operating an adult standards station, apparently “willfully and repeatedly” violated commission rules by operating K266BM at a variance from its licensed parameters for about six months in 2019–2020.

The story is a complex litany of modification applications and license dates.

It starts in 2013, when the FCC granted NWR a license to operate an FM translator at 10 watts on Channel 266 at Olympia. The translator would rebroadcast KGHO(LP) in Hoquiam, Wash.

What followed was a series of modified applications from NWR, according to the summary provided by the FCC in the notice of apparent liability.

Between April 25, 2013, and Dec. 4, 2019, the NWR translator was authorized to rebroadcast KGHO with effective radiated power of 10 watts. But in August 2016, NWR obtained a construction permit to increase the translator’s ERP to 70 watts and change its primary station from KGTK(AM), Olympia. In 2017, at NWR’s request, the FCC modified that 2016 permit to specify an increased ERP of 250 watts.

In June 2019, NWR filed an application to modify the 2017 permit for a second time, the FCC says. As the 2017 permit’s expiration date of Aug. 29, 2019, approached and with the 2019 modification application still pending, NWR applied for a license to cover the facilities authorized in the 2017 permit. The FCC granted the 2019 license application on Dec. 4, 2019.

Things were complicated further by the FCC’s grant of a license to cover the 2017 permit. That converted the pending 2019 modification application from a request to modify the 2017 permit to a request to modify the license issued on Dec. 4, 2019. (Still with us?)

Further, NWR amended the 2019 modification application on Feb.13, 2020. On Feb. 25, 2020, the bureau granted the application and issued the 2020 permit.

NWR again amended the 2020 license application a year later notifying the FCC their translator had changed primary stations and was then rebroadcasting the signal of KBRD(AM) in Lacey, Wash.

That 2020 NWR license app was met with objections from two for-profit broadcasters: Bustos Media Holdings and Bicoastal Media Licenses IV. They asserted the NWR translator was not operating as authorized. They alleged that NWR had made false statements to the commission about the translator’s operations, and that NWR had violated the LPFM cross-ownership rule as well as undergoing an unauthorized transfer of control.

The FCC rejected the claims that NWR had violated cross-ownership and undergone an unauthorized transfer. But it said the non-profit had been operating K266BM without proper authorization.

In the notice of apparent liability, the Media Bureau said that operation of the translator between Dec. 4, 2019, and June 13, 2020, was unauthorized. NWR should have been operating the translator rebroadcasting KGTK(AM) at 250 watts but, the FCC said, NWR acknowledged that it had not begun doing so until June 13, 2020.

Instead, the translator continued operating for over six months under the obsolete 2013 license, rebroadcasting the LPFM station KGHO.

In addition, the FCC said that NWR made false certifications in the 2019 license application when it certified that “the station is now in satisfactory operating condition and ready for regular operation.” and “[t]he facility was constructed as authorized in the underlying construction permit.”

The bureau found that at the time NWR filed the 2019 license application, it had not constructed the facilities authorized in the 2017 permit.

The Northwest Rock N Roll Preservation Society, which is licensed to operate three additional FM translators, will maintain its license and has 30 days to pay the FCC’s proposed monetary penalty of $20,000 or file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the forfeiture.

In a separate action involving two of the same parties, the FCC denied NWR’s application for review challenging the grant of a construction permit to Bicoastal Media to build an FM translator in Centralia, Wash.