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Texas Translator to Pay $1,500 Civil Penalty as Part of Consent Decree

Licensee acknowledged that a malfunctioning studio link led the translator to originate programming for a short time

The FCC Media Bureau has agreed to renew the license application of an FM translator in Texas but only after the licensee submitted to a consent decree and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,500.

The Audio Division within the Media Bureau sent a letter of inquiry to King Broadcasting Corp., licensee of translator K269GT in Houston, when an informal objection was raised after King submitted a renewal application in March 2021 for the station. According to its original license, King had authority to operate the translator between the dates of September 2019 and July 2021 at a location called the Humble Westfield Road site. On April 15, 2020, King requested and received special temporary authority (STA) for the translator to remain silent with operations resuming on April 7, 2021. In 2021, King also relocated the translator’s facilities to a different location.

While the translator was silent, the renewal application was filed by King and the licensee noted on its application that the translator had been silent since April 15, 2021 — not the 2020 date for which it had received STA approval. Soon after, an objection was filed by SIGA Broadcasting Corp. who alleged that the translator’s license had actually automatically expired because that the translator had been silent for more than 12 consecutive months.

King objected to SIGA’s filing, saying that its translator had actually resumed operation on April 7, 2021, and corrected a typo in an application amendment to clarify that the translator had been officially silent between April 15, 2020, and April 9, 2021.

But SIGA disagreed, restating its argument that the translator’s license had automatically expired by law. The broadcaster submitted a Google Earth image of the Humble Westfield Road location from December 2019 and in it, no tower was visible, the bureau said. Citing this and the translator’s silence, SIGA reiterated that the license should be automatically canceled. SIGA also alleged that the translator’s former and current licensee are connected entities and that King’s statements in its silent STA request seemed suspicious. 

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A second pleading from SIGA stated that the translator had also not been rebroadcasting the signal of its primary station — KHPT(FM) in Conroe, Texas — since Oct. 18, 2021. 

To get to the bottom of the matter, the bureau sent a letter of inquiry to King in May 2022 to inquire after: whether or not the translator had been silent for more than 12 consecutive months; if it had changed its primary station without notifying the commission; and if it had originated programming on its own.

In reviewing the situation, the Media Bureau moved to reject SIGA’s assertion that the translator’s license automatically expired by law since King adequately explained that the translator operated with authorized facilities under its 2019 license from Sept. 2019 to April 2020, and then again from April 2021 to June 2021. and, finally, on its 2021 license since June 2021. King provided acceptable documentation to support its claims including dated photographs of the translator’s facilities.

While King did acknowledge that the translator was silent for nearly a year from April 2020 to April 2021, and intermittently between April 2021 and June 2021, none of those periods of silence lasted for 12 consecutive months. As a result, the translator’s license did not automatically expire. 

The bureau also rejected SIGA’s assertion that the statements King made in its STA were suspicious. The bureau also did not agree with SIGA’s suggestion that King and the translator’s former licensee were connected entities. The Media Bureau also decided to dismiss and disregard a license petition and two additional allegations filed by SIGA about alleged serial minor modification filings and alleged abuse of commission processes.

But the bureau did find that the translator violated FCC Rules by originating programming. King stated that due to a malfunctioning studio link, in October and November 2021 the translator did broadcast programming intended to be rebroadcast from the digital channel of its primary station.

As a result, the bureau is adopting a consent decree between itself and King in which the licensee is required to pay a civil penalty of $1,500 related to the translator’s origination of programming. King has 30 calendar days to submit the civil penalty. As long as King fully and timely pays the civil penalty required by the consent decree, the bureau agreed to grant the translator’s renewal application.