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Puerto Rico Translator Handed $3,500 Forfeiture

Permittee cited for failing to file a license on time and for 10 months of unauthorized operation

An FM translator in Puerto Rico — which allegedly violated FCC rules by failing to file a license on time and operating without authorization — was handed a $3,500 forfeiture by the Federal Communications Commission.

In 2018 the Media Bureau issued a construction permit to International Broadcasting Corp. for FM translator station W293DE in Guayama, Puerto Rico. The expiration of that permit — on Jan. 10, 2021 — came and went. According to the bureau, because the permittee had not filed a covering license application by that date, the permit simply expired.

According to FCC rules, “any construction permit for which construction has not been completed and for which an application for license has not been filed, shall be automatically forfeited upon expiration without any further affirmative cancellation by the commission.”

International filed a petition for reconsideration with the bureau, saying the translator had actually been constructed prior to the permit expiration date. The bureau pivoted and decided to treat International’s petition as a request for a waiver of the rules. The bureau granted the waiver, reinstated the permit and instructed International to file a covering license for the application, which was received on Nov. 22, 2021.

But that still left the matter of more than 10 months of unauthorized broadcasts during 2021. The commission said that not only did International fail to file a covering license on time, but it continued operating the translator without any special temporary authority before finally filing the appropriate covering license.

In cases like these, the FCC has the authority to issue a forfeiture penalty with a base amount of $3,000 for failing to file a required form and $10,000 for operation without authorization. That amount can be adjusted up and down based on the facts of the case.

In this situation, the commission found that a $7,000 base forfeiture would be appropriate due to International’s failure to file a covering license and its months of unauthorized operation. The bureau then reduced the forfeiture even further — to $3,500 — because of the translator’s nature as a secondary service.

According to the bureau, International’s pending application for the FM translator can be approved once this forfeiture proceeding has been concluded.

Currently, International uses the translation to relay WIBS(AM), Radio Caribe, which is also based in Guayama.