The Federal Communications Commission moved to renew the application for a Texas FM station and translator — but only for one year, instead of the typical eight-year-term — after the station went silent for 248 days and failed to meet its online public inspection file requirements.
When Elohim Group Corp., which is licensee of station KPYM(FM) in Matagorda and FM translator K286BW in Midland, applied to renew its broadcast license, it admitted that it had been silent since Aug. 10, 2020. It was also revealed that the licensee failed to comply with the FCC’s online public inspection file requirements as laid out by FCC Rules.
An informal objection was filed soon after by an individual named Albert Adam David, arguing that the station’s license automatically should have expired on Aug. 11, 2021, because the license never filed a request for extension of the station’s silent STA, nor did it file a notice of resumption of operations.
Elohim responded that operations did resume — on April 25, 2021 — and that it filed a notice to say that it has resumed broadcasting. According to Elohim, the failure to file a resumption notice earlier was an oversight and, technically, the station was not required to file for an extension of the silent STA because it resumed operations within 180 days of the STA letter it received from the Audio Division at the FCC. Elohim said that David offered no evidence to show that the station is not operating and so there is no basis for finding that its license would have automatically expired per the FCC Rules.
David replied to say that the STA letter sent by the FCC required Elohim to notify the commission when the station resumed operations. But no such resumption notice was filed until 43 days after the one-year anniversary of the station’s silence. David also argued that the licensee’s oversight was a willful violation and that Elohim’s defense is not valid because the station’s license should have been cancelled and the renewal application dismissed.
But upon review of the facts, the commission found that David did not meet a proper burden of proof — by providing properly supported allegations of fact — that would give the commission cause to approve his opposition.
The FCC Rules do state that a broadcast station license will automatically expire if it is silent for a consecutive 12-month period. And David does not dispute that the station did resume operations prior to the expiration deadline. But he argued that the failure to file a resumption notice should be efficient to trigger the expiration of the license nonetheless.
But no such authority exists, the commission said. As a result, the commission denied his objection.
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The commission did point out that failing to operate for long stretches of time is a fundamental failure to serve a station’s community of license. Renewal applications will be granted if the station has properly served the public interest and if there are no serious violations that would constitute a pattern of abuse. But if the licensee fails to meet that standard, the commission may deny the application or grant it with certain terms and conditions.
That is what happened to Elohim. In this case, the “licensee’s conduct falls short of that which would warrant routine license renewal,” the commission said. The station was silent for 248 days during the license term, a lapse that fails to meet the public service commitment that licensees are expected to provide. This is in addition to the failure to comply with online public file requirements.
As a result, the commission found that a short-term license renewal for the station was the appropriate sanction. “We cannot find that the station served the public interest, convenience and necessity during the license term due to the extended period of non-operation,” the commission said. The commission decided to grant the station a short-term license renewal of one year, which will give the commission the opportunity to review the station’s public service performance as well as its compliance with FCC Rules and the Communications Act.
As part of the consent decree, the station must also put together a comprehensive compliance plan to ensure compliance with online public file rules and, after one year, submit a compliance report to the Audio Division.
Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology and a long-time contributor to Radio World. She has served as editor-in-chief of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as broadcasting, education, chess, music, sports and the connected home environment.