FCC Declines to Rescind Penalty Against WJHX

A late filing was followed by a late appeal
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A late filing was followed by a late appeal

The FCC has dismissed a request from WJHX(AM), Lexington, Ala., to erase a fine.

Manuel Huerta’s renewal application was due Dec. 1, 2003, four months before the license was to expire; the commission said Huerta didn’t file until the following April, nearly three weeks after the license had expired. Huerta also had prepared no program/issue lists for the public file from the time he took over WJHX in 2002 until the license renewal application in 2004, according to the agency. So it issued a $16,000 fine.

Appealing, Huerta argued that the fine was disproportionate with other cases and that his compliance record was good; he also argued that a late filing was better than none. The Media Bureau then replied that late applications still disrupt the process and that the public file fine was consistent with others. It did reduce the overall penalty to $12,800 based on Huerta’s compliance record.

But Huerta then filed a petition for reconsideration, essentially repeating his arguments, according to the agency.

Lateness was a problem here too; the FCC said his appeal was not filed within the required 30 days. Huerta didn’t file it until two weeks after the deadline. He said he never got a copy of the forfeiture order, though the FCC said it had been sent via Certified Mail-Return Receipt Requested and First Class Mail to both Huerta’s address of record and his attorney. The attorney did get it but told the FCC he did not have Huerta’s current address or telephone number and was not able to contact his client until later. 

The FCC staff rejected the appeal based on the lateness, but it added in a footnote that even if the petition had been filed on time it would have been rejected.