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Virginia FM Handed $15,000 Forfeiture for Alleged Filing Violations

FCC says station allegedly failed to prepare quarterly issues/lists and upload files to online database

A Virginia licensee has been handed a $15,000 forfeiture — in addition to receiving a shortened license renewed term — after allegedly failing to keep proper issues and program files updated in the FCC OPIF database.

The Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission ruled in a combination order/notice of apparent liability that Seaview Communications, which is licensee of WPEX(FM) in Kenbridge, Va., apparently violated several sections of FCC rules.

[Read: AM Station Hit with $15,000 Forfeiture After Public File Lapse]

According to the bureau, the station allegedly failed to prepare its set of quarterly issues and programs lists and it failed to upload this information into the station’s online public inspection file. FCC Rules require that commercial broadcast radio stations place issues and program lists — which detail programs that he station has covered over a three-month period — every quarter . Those files must include a quick briefing of the issues addressed as well as lay out specific details such as the time, date, duration and title of each program. Stations must then upload certain public file documents to the FCC’s OPIF public inspection file database. As of March 1, 2018, all broadcast stations are now required to post public file info (except political file material).

When Seaview began the process of prepping its license renewal application, it answered “no” when asked if it has placed the required documentation into its public file. The station explained that it had difficulties in navigating the new on-line public inspection file. “As such, certain deadlines were not meet with respect to the ‘upload’ of issues/programs lists,” the licensee said, though Seaview said it had begun working with the FCC counsel and plans to resolve the public file upload problems.

However, this explanation does not excuse or nullify the violation, the bureau said. The commission has the authority to hand down a base forfeiture of $10,000 to those licensees who fail to maintain their public file and an additional $3,000 for failing to upload the required documentation.

The commission can also raise or lower those forfeitures based on the circumstances. In the case of WPEX, the FCC handed down a $15,000 forfeiture, saying that even though Seaview admitted to its violations, it did so only when compelled to answer via its renewal application. Moreover, the bureau found the violations were “extensive” and apparently encompassed the entire license term.

The Media Bureau also found that the licensee’s conduct fell short of the standard of compliance that the FCC uses when handing out a routine license renewal. “The issues and programs lists are a significant and representative indication that a licensee is providing substantial service to meet the needs and interests of its community,” the bureau said. As such, it concluded that a short-term license renewal of two years was warranted. “This limited renewal period will afford the commission an opportunity to review the station’s compliance with the [Communications Act] and the FCC’s rules and to take whatever corrective actions, if any, that may be warranted at that time.”

Seaview has 30 days to pay the forfeiture or respond seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.