Locked, Empty Studio Garners $21,500 Fine for Mt. Rushmore

While KUFW is on the hook for $12,500 for airing ads
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Two licensees ran afoul of the FCC.

The commission found Mount Rushmore Broadcasting, licensee of KZMX(AM/FM), Hot Springs, S.D., apparently liable for a $21,500 penalty for failing to maintain a management or staff presence at the main studio, failing to make the stations available for inspection and failing to operate KZMX(FM) under the terms of that station’s authorization.

Responding to a complaint last May, an agent from the Enforcement Bureau’s Denver office tried to inspect the AM and FM. The agent found the door locked with no staff present and no contact information posted. The agent stayed at the site several hours, monitoring the station’s air signals and trying to contact a Mt. Rushmore representative, according to the agency account.

The agent returned several times on June 1, 2011 and tried to inspect the stations and also called the licensee. The calls weren’t answered.

The agent visited a separate business in the area also owned by the owner of Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting and left his card with an employee who said he would give that to the owner, but the president of Mt. Rushmore didn’t get back to the agent, according to the commission.

The agent also inspected the transmitter site for the FM and saw that the station was operating with a four-bay, circularly polarized FM antenna. A four-bay horizontal FM antenna was on the ground. KZMX(FM) is only authorized to use horizontal polarization. The commission found this violation had been ongoing since 2005 and is responsible for the bulk of the assessed penalty.

On June 2, the agent returned and found the FM was operating at reduced modulation; the studio was locked and empty. An attorney for the licensee called the agent and told him he had filed a request for Special Temporary Authority to take the station off the air; it went dark on June 3, 2011.

The station has 30 days to appeal the fine.

The other case involves noncommercial KUFW(FM) in Woodlake, Calif., licensed to the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

The commission upheld a previous fine of $12,500 for airing advertising rather than underwriting announcements that came to light during an inspection in 2006. The Enforcement Bureau’s San Francisco office sent a Letter of Inquiry about a potential technical violation in addition to the apparent ads in 2007. Letters went back and forth between the agency and the license and in 2010, the commission found the station had apparently violated the underwriting laws by airing four separate advertisements more than 2,000 times from March through December of 2006. That’s when the FCC proposed the $12,500 penalty.

The foundation asked the commission to cancel or reduce the fine, calling the amount “excessive” and saying it had made good faith efforts to comply with the underwriting laws, and that none of the announcement contained a call to action.

The commission was not persuaded to cancel nor reduce the fine, saying in its decision the amount was appropriate. Under FCC rules, underwriting announcements may be made for identification purposes only, and should not promote the contributors’ products, services or businesses.

In this case, the licensee repeatedly aired ads that “were clearly aimed at inducing the purchase of goods or services from several for-profit entities,” according to the agency.

Payment is due within 30 days.

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