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FCC Deletes South Dakota FM’s Call Sign

Renewal application denied due to unauthorized operation

Station KAWK(FM) in Custer, S.D., received word in mid-May that its license would be cancelled and its call sign would be deleted.

A series of stops and starts have plagued the station, and in this latest round, Mount Rushmore Broadcasting (MRB) had its renewal application cancelled by the Federal Communications Commission for failure to specify a new permanent antenna site and for unauthorized operation.

Based on Audio Division records and MRB’s admission, the station was found to either be silent or operating with unauthorized facilities from October 2008 through April 2012. During the brief periods that the station operated during this time, totaling 39 days, MRB lacked any sort of commission authority to operate KAWK, the FCC said.

At the heart of the issue is a Special Temporary Authority. In March 2003, MRB requested an STA to operate at a site other than its licensed site because, MRB said, it lost its permanent site and was seeking a new one. Despite that statement, the FCC said, MRB did not file an application on FCC Form 301 to specify a new permanent site.

Over the next seven years, starting in October 2008, MRB requested STAs for silent authority, and filed notices of resumption of operation nine different times. But MRB did not refer to the loss of the licensed transmitter site that was reported to the commission back in March 2003 and had been operating from the temporary site since then.

The station said it “did not realize that an STA was needed to resume service following a silent period when there had been an STA granted previously for the same facility,” but rather, it assumed that once the site and facilities had been approved on a temporary basis, they could be used again on a temporary basis. According to the FCC, MRB said it did not understand the difference between an STA for silent authority and an STA for resumption of service, and believed that all appropriate filings were being made by counsel representing it at the time.

In its letter to the licensee, the commission reminded MRB of the ways in which a station is subject to lose its license — including when a station operates with unauthorized facilities. “In this case, although MRB previously obtained STA to operate from a temporary site, it allowed the STA to expire, and then resumed or continued operation without authorization,” the FCC said.

According to the FCC, MRB said that it did not know that FCC rules required it to have an unexpired authorization to operate from the temporary site. And the fact that MRB was following advice of counsel does not excuse the station’s failure to seek an STA or its unauthorized operations.

Although the commission can extend a license in cases such as these, the commission declined to reinstate one here because of the licensee’s own actions.

“We find that exercise of such discretion [on our part] is especially unwarranted when for more than six years the station was either silent or engaging in brief periods of unauthorized operation,” the FCC said. When following the facts on paper, KAWK’s license actually expired in October 2009. That explains the subsequent deletion of the station’s call sign and all authority to operate its facility was terminated.