The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of apparent forfeiture to a Michigan FM licensee for alleged unauthorized operation, a late-filed special temporary authority request and failure to disclose key information.
The problem seems to have started with flooding. Licensee Roy E. Henderson filed a silent STA application in February 2015 due to an incident of flooding at station WBNZ(FM) in Frankfort, Mich. He told the FCC that WBNZ was forced off the air in January 2015 when a broken frozen water main caused damage and interior flooding to the station. The station would need to remain off the air until repair needs could be determined, he told the commission.
As part of its investigation, the FCC asked for updates on the station’s operational status, but issues arose during the course of the investigation — including a late reply from Henderson regarding exactly when the station came back on the air, initially insufficient proof about how long the station has been off the air, and the revelation that the station was operating at reduced power.
The bureau found that while the station had not been silent for more than a year, the station had operated at an unauthorized power level. The station also failed to request an STA in a timely manner to operate at this reduced power level.
“Licensee merely stated that ‘WBNZ is currently operating at the reduced power of 1.4 kW,’ but failed to state that, in fact, the station had been operated with that unauthorized power reduction for nearly 17 months before filing the engineering STA application,” the FCC said.
After researching the issue, the Media Bureau found three infractions: that Henderson willfully and repeatedly operated WBNZ at variance from its license without commission authority; that he failed to timely file an STA; and he failed to disclose material information regarding the unauthorized operations.
The bureau concluded that Henderson is liable for a monetary forfeiture of $18,000 for the violations.
Specifically, the bureau proposed a $10,000 forfeiture for unauthorized operation, $3,000 for failing to timely file the required STA, and $5,000 for failing to disclose a material fact in the engineering STA — namely that Henderson failed to reveal that the station had been operated with an unauthorized power reduction for nearly 17 months before filing an STA.
Henderson has 30 days to pay the full amount or to file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.