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FCC Upholds $7,000 Fine for WPRX

Station penalized for operating after its license expired, filing late renewal

The FCC upheld a $7,000 fine against Nievezquez Productions for unauthorized station operation and filing its renewal application late.

Nievezquez Productions is the licensee of WPRX(AM), Bristol, Conn. The commission says the station’s license renewal application was due Dec. 1, 2005, four months before the license was set to expire; but the FCC says no paperwork was filed and WPRX’s license expired April 1, 2006.

In September of 2010, the commission wrote to Nievezquez Productions, stating that authority to operate the station had ended and the call letters had been deleted from the FCC’s database. It told the station that station operation was unauthorized and must stop immediately.

After receiving the expiration letter, Nievezquez Productions filed a renewal application and a request for special temporary authority to remain on the air.

The FCC announced its planned fine in August of this year. Nievezquez Productions argued that the violations were not intentional, that it can’t pay the fine and wants the penalty canceled. The licensee said it changed its mailing address but didn’t tell the commission and missed receiving a reminder to file a license renewal application.

The FCC said in its decision “long-standing commission precedent … states that responsibility for complying with terms of a station’s license ‘rests solely and exclusively with the licensee.’”

The commission also “gave no weight” to the argument that the fine should be cancelled because Nievezquez Productions had emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2010. There is precedent for such cancellations or reductions when a licensee has given up control of the station, the FCC said; however Nievezquez Productions still controlled WPRX assets and is no longer in bankruptcy.

The commission said the $7,000 fine represents 3.9% of that station’s average yearly gross revenues and just because WPRX experienced losses in the past doesn’t demonstrate that it can’t pay the fine now.

WPRX must pay within 30 days or the case may be turned over to the DOJ for collection, said the agency in its decision.