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LPFMs Face Fines After Forgetting License Renewals

But the commission said it didn’t follow its own usual practice either

Two low-power FM stations in the southeastern United States face potential $1,500 fines for not filing their license renewal applications on time.

However, both will avoid added penalties for operating on their expired licenses for many months.

The first station, WNGK in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is licensed to American Network Media Inc. It should have filed for renewal by Dec. 1, 2020, ahead of expiration in April 2021. It didn’t do so until more than 17 months after the filing deadline, in May of 2022, and without explanation for the delay, the FCC said.

The commission now has issued a notice of apparent liability, giving the station 30 days to comment or pay.

Notably, the commission wrote that while this application was not filed until after the license had expired, the FCC staff had not, “as is our standard procedure,” notified the licensee of an impending expiration.

For that reason, and because the station filed as soon as it was made aware, the commission said it will not pursue enforcement action for the operation of the station for more than a year after its license expiration date.

In a similar case, Aframsouth failed to file for license renewal for station WUMO(LP) in Montgomery, Ala. It should have filed by Feb. 1, 2021 to avoid expiration in June 2021, but the application was not filed until mid-May of this year.

In this case the licensee blamed an “oversight” and noted that the FCC Licensing and Management System showed an expiration date in 2028. The commission didn’t accept those arguments but again proposed a $1,500 NAL and said it would not pursue a penalty for the operation for almost a year after the expiration date.

In both cases the FCC pointed out that if it had gotten as far as canceling the licenses, and had those become final, it would not have been able to accept and process late-filed applications for renewal. As it is, in both cases, the FCC plans to approve the renewals if there are no other issues.

In a third case involving an LPFM, the Media Bureau has canceled a planned $1,500 penalty against Corning Christian Radio Corp, licensee of WLRG(LP)  in Corning, N.Y.

That station too had failed to file for renewal on time. But after the FCC issued an NAL, the station provided three years of tax returns demonstrating that the fine would create a financial hardship. The penalty was reduced to an admonishment.