An LPFM is facing a $3,500 potential liability for two alleged infractions: failing to file its license renewal application on time and operating a station without authority.
Rules set by the Federal Communications Commission require that license renewal applications must be filed no later than the first day of the fourth month prior to the expiration. In the case of Minority Educational Broadcasting Association, operator of low-power FM station WPJM in Palatka, Fla., a renewal application should have been filed by Oct. 1, 2019. That’s four months prior to the license expiration date of Feb. 1, 2020. But no such application was filed.
The Media Bureau sent a letter to the licensee to warn them that if no renewal application was filed by Feb. 1, the license for WPJM would expire. On Feb. 3, the bureau received a renewal application but did not provide any explanation for the late filing.
Also of note, the Media Bureau said: the licensee did not request a special temporary authority for the right to legally operate the station after the license expired.
The commission’s forfeiture rules establish a base forfeiture of $3,000 for failure to file a required form. It also sets a base forfeiture of $10,000 for operating without authority, although the commission has the right to adjust that amount up or down depending on the gravity of the violation and history of prior offenses, among other matters.
Based on the review of the facts and circumstances, the Media Bureau found that a $7,000 forfeiture was appropriate, including the $3,000 for failing to file a required form and $4,000 for operating without a license. But the bureau, after considering the record as a whole, decided to reduce the forfeiture further by setting a forfeiture of $1,500 for failing to file a timely application and $2,000 for unauthorized operations — for a total of $3,500 — because as an LPFM, the station is providing a secondary service.
As part of the license renewal process, the bureau also considers whether the station has properly served the public interest, if there have been no serious violations of the Communications Act and FCC rules and if there have been no other violations that constitute a pattern of abuse.
In this case, the bureau did not find any serious violations that, when considered together, show a pattern of abuse. As a result, the Media Bureau granted the renewal application to the LPFM.
But for that to happen, Minority Educational Broadcasting Association must submit $3,500 within 30 days for its violation of FCC rules and the Communications Act or submit a written statement seeking reduction of cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.