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FCC Keeps Crankin’ Out the Public File Fines

Four-station Florida group is latest to be whacked

When your station is filling out a license renewal form, you hate to have to answer a question starting with the word “Regrettably.”

But that’s what one Florida broadcaster had to do on behalf of four stations; and there’s another round of public file penalties from the FCC as a result.

Opus Broadcasting Tallahassee faces four notices of apparent liability, at $4,000 each, in cases involving public files at WHTF(FM) Havana; WANK(FM) Lafayette; and WWOF(FM) and WQTL(FM) Tallahassee.

It was yet another instance where a broadcaster answered “no” when asked on Form 303-S whether proper documentation had been in its public inspection files. As we’ve reported over time, the FCC consistently issues NALs in such cases.

“Regrettably,” the broadcaster explained on each license renewal app, “the station appears to be missing quarterly issues programs lists for the initial period during which it owned and operated the station.” Opus Broadcasting lacked lists from late 2005 through early 2007, though the company added that it was “confident that it broadcast programming responsive to the needs and interests of the local community,” and listed programs to support that.

Such arguments have not persuaded the FCC in the past to forego fines, and did not in this case either. However, the base fine in such cases is $10,000 each. The FCC chose to propose a fine of $4,000 to each station, citing similar past cases. The agency also issued these NALs individually yet as a batch of four, and is appearing to treat this case essentially as one big $16,000 NAL.

Opus has a month to pay or appeal.

As it has done in similar recent cases, the FCC said the four stations’ license renewal requests will not be in jeopardy as a result of the public file problems.