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Kentucky AM Can Get Its License Back

Fine, then leniency, as FCC addresses AM station’s tardy renewal

The FCC has slapped a Kentucky station with a $7,000 fine for neglecting to renew its license on time three years ago. But rather than stripping the station of its call letters indefinitely, the commission signaled it was prepared to renew the license once the station pays its fine — assuming the station doesn’t violate any other rules.

Two missteps led to this week’s ruling against Lancaster Broadcasters and its station WKYY(AM): the station failed to apply to renew its license four months before the license was due to expire, a timeline commitment required under FCC rules; and the station continued to operate for more than a month after the license expired outright.

According to an FCC summary, Lancaster Broadcasters said the poor economy had been to blame for the station’s inability to prep, file and pay for its license renewal.

After the initial ruling in August 2012 — when the station was stripped of its authority to broadcast and its call letters were deleted from the FCC database — the commission granted Lancaster Broadcasters temporary authority to continue broadcasting while the case was being reviewed. The station then asked the FCC for permission to extend temporary authority past March 2013, but that request remains pending, according to the FCC; and as of today, the station’s call sign remains with a “D” in front of it.

Fast forward to 2015, and the FCC has found that although violations had been made, the unlicensed operation was no pirate radio scenario.

Looking at the station’s track record, the commission found no serious past violations and determined that the station had been serving the public interest. Taking these facts into consideration, the commission handed out a fine that was nearly half of what it could have been. FCC regulations state that the base fine for late registration is $3,000. The base fine for operating without a license is a hefty $10,000.

The timing of its return to air is unclear. WKYY had been operating as a gospel station in the small hamlet of Lancaster, Ky., about an hour south of Frankfort. The station’s majority owner died recently, and in June the commission granted transfer of control, according to an FCC summary.