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Fine Against Former LPFM Operator Is Upheld

Unauthorized transfer of control proves costly

If you’re tempted to think that running a low-power radio station involves only penny-and-dime stuff, read this.

The former operator of an LPFM station in Louisiana has not been able to convince the Federal Communications Commission to forgive a $20,000 fine against her company even though she has claimed it will cause her financial hardship. The station was WHYR(FM) in Baton Rouge. The Audio Division of the Media Bureau says the licensee, Ethics Inc., violated the rules with an unauthorized transfer of control starting in late 2005.

The FCC staff issued a notice of apparent liability in the case last year. The president of Ethics, Elaine Rougeau, responded. But, according to the commission, she didn’t submit Ethics’ federal tax returns, financial statements or any other “reliable and objective documentation setting forth its finances.”

She did tell them that the organization “has not produced income of over $10,000 in the almost 10 years” of its existence, and provides her personal federal tax returns for 2009, as well as a copy of a hardship letter sent in support of a request to modify her home mortgage.

The FCC said the paperwork was not enough.

“Because Ethics has a three-person board, we cannot consider only Rougeau’s personal tax returns. Moreover, even if we were to consider Rougeau’s submissions, we would find them insufficient.”

Without better info, the commission said it won’t reduce the $20,000 fine.

Update: In May 2012 Elaine Rougeau took exception to this description of the FCC action and RW’s reporting of it. Read her commentary here.