Despite saying that it misunderstood the rules when it came to the length of time a station may stay silent — and that the blame partly lies with the Media Bureau — the Federal Communications Commission ruled an FM translator in Craig, Colo., must stay off the air.
FM translator K255BL, which was licensed to Pillar of Fire, was off the air for 12 months ending on Nov. 30, 2016. Under the rules of the Communications Act, the station’s license automatically expired on of Dec. 1, 2016.
But Pillar of Fire argued the FCC’s Media Bureau should have acted to extend or reinstate the station’s license, the licensee said in an Application for Review. According to Pillar, the bureau should have granted the licensee’s request for a waiver because Pillar of Fire misunderstood the statutory limitation on the length of time a station may remain silent, and was intending to use the translator to improve service of its station KPOF(AM) in Denver as part of the commission’s AM revitalization initiative.
Specifically, the bureau should have considered matters of fairness and the public interest when it came to revitalizing KPOF, and should have considered the licensee’s reasons for its extended silence.
No go, said the FCC.
In its initial response to Pillar of Fire, the Media Bureau said that not only did the licensee receive written warning regarding the upcoming expiration date, but it reminded the licensee that it usually only extends a license when an extended silence is beyond the licensee’s control.
All this was made a bit more complicated by the fact that Pillar of Fire had acquired the translator’s license from the former licensee, Professional Antenna, Tower and Translator Service (PATTS), for a three-year term starting Aug. 16, 2016. When this deal was approved by the Media Bureau, Pillar of Fire said it was given no notice of the fast-approaching license expiration deadline. This “omission” made by the bureau caused Pillar to believe it had additional time to remain silent beyond the one-year mark.
However, the FCC said, the original license grant (which was issued to PATTS and Pillar of Fire on May 10, 2016) clearly stated that the license would expire on Dec. 1, 2016.
“[M]isinterpretation of the law does not excuse its violation,” the FCC wrote in its findings.
“There is no obligation on the bureau’s part to issue repeated reminders of a license’s impending expiration when licensees and permittees are expected to know our rules.”
And the issue of AM revitalization? The FCC found that nothing in its AM Revitalization Order changes the interpretation of the rules surrounding stations silent for an extended period of time.