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$25K Penalty Upheld Against Florida LPFM

FCC tried again to inspect WJUP but the station was uncooperative

The FCC has affirmed a $25,000 fine against low-power FM station WJUP in Jupiter, Fla., for multiple rule violations.

The penalty against Jupiter Community Radio, announced in 2022, is believed to be the largest the commission has handed out to an LPFM station. Jupiter has tried twice to have the fine reduced or overturned.

The commission originally announced the penalty in a 2020 Notice of Apparent Liability for violations that included running its transmitter at an ERP of well over its licensed 20 watts and failing to make the station available for inspection. The station was also found to not be operating its own EAS equipment but rather provided logs for 101.9 WOIB(LP) Oakland Park, Fla., which it was simulcasting as part of the Omega Church Broadcasting Network.

Jupiter did not dispute those violations or mention an inability to pay, but it sought cancellation of the forfeiture on several other grounds.

The FCC didn’t accept its arguments and finalized the forfeiture in 2022.

The station then petitioned again in September of 2022. According to the FCC summary, Jupiter again conceded the violations but now asked for a reduction or elimination of the fine based on its financial situation. It told the FCC its status had changed as the result of a new board taking over in 2021. It used 11 months of bank statements in support of its inability to pay the full penalty.

The Enforcement Bureau now writes in response that while it is “cognizant of the concerns raised by small entities as to the burden and expense of documenting their inability to pay a forfeiture,” Jupiter’s bank account statements and other documentation were insufficient. The FCC requires three years’ worth of tax returns, financial statements or other “reliable” documentation to reflect current cash flow status before considering a penalty reduction.

Further, WJUP had not mentioned its inability to pay in its earlier response, although “clearly aware of its financial condition,” according to the commission.

“Jupiter was in the best position to make such an argument in a timely manner, yet it opted not to do so,” the bureau wrote.

Making matters worse, in April of this year, Miami office field agents visited the studios and found the station to be off the air.

An agent had also contacted Paula Henry, the station’s president, to arrange an inspection, but the commission described Henry as “uncooperative” and said follow-up calls seeking access were not returned.

The bureau added in a footnote that the property manager at the transmitter site told the agents that Jupiter’s lease had expired more than a year earlier and that he did not believe Jupiter had operated the station from the site since the lease expired.

“Given the limited financial information Jupiter submitted with its petition, coupled with Jupiter’s continued unwillingness to permit bureau agents to inspect the station, we find that the public interest does not favor granting the relief that Jupiter seeks,” the bureau wrote.

Jupiter Community Radio now has 30 days to pay the full $25,000 penalty.

(Read the commission’s decision.)

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