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Shelby Faces Penalty in Alabama Translator Case

But Marble City Media fails to overturn the translator’s sale

The Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau has sent a notice of a potential $16,500 forfeiture to Shelby Broadcast Associates, former licensee of an FM translator in Tarrant, Ala.

But the bureau declined another broadcaster’s request to reject the translator’s license renewal and its transfer to another company.

The FCC said the notice of apparent liability results from Shelby’s unauthorized operation of translator W252BE, its failure to file for an STA and false application certifications.

Marble City Media, licensee of an FM station in Stewartville, Ala., that operates on the same 98.3 frequency, filed numerous complaints against Shelby dating to early 2017 and said the translator was interfering with its own station.

The FCC agreed that the translator had been operating with an unauthorized transmitting ERP and antenna HAAT since the expiration in late 2016 of an earlier STA extension requested by a prior licensee.

The prior licensee had sought the original STA for higher ERP and lower HAAT because of a severed coaxial cable. But after Shelby acquired the translator in June 2017, the FCC said, it made no attempt to address the unauthorized operation until seeking its own STA in July 2018.

Marble City immediately filed an objection to the STA and argued that because Shelby had been operating the translator in an unauthorized manner for more than a year, its license should be considered expired under FCC rules.  It subsequently challenged Shelby’s renewal application in early 2020.

The bureau did determine that Shelby certified incorrectly in its renewal application that there had been no violations in the preceding term. It did not, however, uphold Marble City’s argument that the license should be considered expired.

It said the translator did continue to operate at its authorized site and frequency during the period of “nonconforming operations,” a condition that has determined violations in past cases. The FCC also dismissed Marble City’s contention that Shelby should not be considered an authorized licensee due to previous “character issues.”

Shelby meanwhile had agreed to sell the translator to Rivera Communications in June of 2020, a transfer that Marble City wanted the FCC to overturn. Rivera is operating W252BE as a relay of WAYE(AM) Birmingham, with a regional Mexican format known as “La Jefa.” Rivera told the FCC that the translator ERP has been reduced to 65 watts to resolve interference contentions from Marble City.

Shelby Broadcast Associates has 30 days to pay the proposed forfeiture or ask the FCC for a reduction or cancellation.

[Read the NAL.]