Consent Decree Reduces Fine by 85 Percent

A broadcaster took action to address a long list of violations for which the Federal Communications Commission had assessed it nearly $160,000 in proposed fines. In so doing it won a big reduction in penalty.
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A broadcaster took action to address a long list of violations for which the Federal Communications Commission had assessed it nearly $160,000 in proposed fines. In so doing it won a big reduction in penalty.

Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting, licensee of six radio stations and an antenna structure in Wyoming and South Dakota,entered into a consent decree with the commission to resolve an investigation into its alleged violation of a litany of commission rules — including those surrounding public inspection files, main studios, inspection, licensing, lighting and tower painting. After agreeing to enroll its stations in a national compliance plan and submitting detailed financial documents illustrating its inability to pay the entire fine, the commission agreed to reduce the broadcaster’s fine to $25,000 — on the condition of future compliance.

In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Mt. Rushmore was pinged for alleged violations that include failing to maintain a full-time management and staff presence at the main studio of two of its stations during regular business hours, failing make those stations available for inspection by an FCC agent, and failing to operate one of those stations in accordance with terms of its authorization. The broadcaster was also charged with failing to maintain accurate public inspection files at four of its stations, failing to light its antenna structure properly, failing to immediately notify the Federal Aviation Administration of a known obstruction light outage and improper operation of several studio-transmitter link stations.

Over three years, the commission issued 10 separate notices of apparent liabilities totaling $159,500 in fines.

To settle the matter, Mt. Rushmore acknowledged that its operations violated FCC rules. It agreed to implement a compliance plan at each of its stations and enroll those stations into the Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program, a collaborative effort between the FCC and state broadcast associations to help broadcasters stay in compliance with the rules.

In its response to the FCC, Mt. Rushmore had said it didn’t have the ability to pay all the penalties, and submitted tax returns as evidence.

The reduction comes with a catch: If the broadcaster commits any of the same violations within the next three years, the FCC said, Mt. Rushmore will be required to pay the remainder of the original proposed civil penalties, totaling $134,500.

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