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LPFM in Queens Hit With FCC Penalty

The licensee operated an unauthorized FM booster station

The FCC says a low-power FM station in one of the most congested radio markets in the United States admits to running an unauthorized FM booster station for more than a year. 

However, the licensee says a language barrier and misunderstanding of the FCC’s rules led to the infraction.

The Global Service Center for Quitting Chinese Communist Party is licensee of WQEQ(LP) in Flushing, a neighborhood in Queens, N.Y. According to a consent decree released by the Media Bureau this week, the licensee has agreed to pay a $1,500 civil penalty that resolves the Bureau’s investigation.

The FCC says it received a complaint from Queens Public Communications Network (QPCN) in early 2021 alleging WQEQ had been silent for more than 12 consecutive months and failed to maintain a minimum operating schedule. QPCN, which manages four public cable channels in Queens, stated it had contacted The Global Service Center for Quitting Chinese Communist Party to discuss the possibility of acquiring, leasing or sharing the LPFM. 

QPCN, according to the FCC, suggested that if the licensee were not open to such discussions, QPCN would report the LPFM for not operating for more than a year. QPCN told the commission in its complaint it had tried to tune into the station periodically, but was unable to receive the signal.

After receiving a Notice of Inquiry from the FCC, The Global Service Center for Quitting Chinese Communist Party responded with a declaration and evidence it had been operating during the period in question. Although, the licensee did admit that its equipment that would log times it was off air was disabled after a power outage.

The LPFM station’s operations manager attested that the station had been operating, but said that “due to the stations restricted transmitter power, interference from licensed stations and possible interference from unauthorized pirate radio stations often resulted in the LPFM not being heard throughout its service area.” That includes QPCN’s offices, which are located outside of the station’s predicted 60 dBu service contour.

“Licensee does state, however, that for a period from June 15, 2020, until Sept. 7, 2021, the station did operate with an FM broadcast booster station generating 8 watts effective radiated power at a height above ground level of approximately 18 feet,” according to the FCC. 

It continued: “(Licensee) attributes the construction and operation of this unauthorized additional transmitter to a language translation issue and misunderstanding of then-new rules regarding FM broadcast booster operations by LPFM stations.”

The commission’s consent decree states QPCN failed to demonstrate that the LPFM station was silent for more than 12 consecutive months, and in fact has not clearly shown when the station may or may not have been operating. The FCC notes in the report that WQEQ, at the time, was operating pursuant to a voluntary time share agreement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and its station WDMB(LP). 

The FCC also has been considering a license renewal for WQEQ. According to this week’s consent decree, the bureau will act upon the application for license renewal after payment of the civil penalty required by the agreement. The Global Service Center for Quitting Chinese Communist Party has 30 days to pay the $1,500 forfeiture. 

The FCC stated in its conclusion: “We find that the station has served the public interest, convenience and necessity during the subject license term. After reviewing the terms of the consent decree, we find that the public interest would be served by its approval and by terminating the Bureau’s investigation into licensee’s violations, subject to the terms of the consent decree.”    

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