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MMTC Urges FCC to Drop Fine Against LPFM

Commission earlier reduced penalty against station at historically black school, but groups say that's not enough

Minority broadcast advocates are pushing the Federal Communications Commission to overturn a fine against a low-power FM that was assessed for EAS and STL technical violations.

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, NAACP, Rainbow-PUSH Coalition and the Black College Communication Association are asking the commission to vacate a fine against the station at historically black Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

This January, the commission reduced the $18,000 fine against WRWS(LP) — for having no EAS decoder and operating an STL without a license — to $9,600. However the groups say the penalty should be dismissed because the FCC didn’t follow its own pattern of limiting fines for LPFMs to a few hundred dollars.

Although the station had filed paperwork to license an STL, it failed to follow up with its contractor or otherwise ask about the missing authorization until after the October 2008 FCC inspection, according to the commission. The station GM also told the FCC he didn’t know an EAS decoder was required, although the station engineer says he told the GM it is required. The agency in January reduced the penalty based on past good compliance of WRWS.

But even the reduced fine would discourage the creation and development of broadcasting programs at historically black schools, or HBCUs, argued David Honig, president and executive director of the MMTC.

“HBCUs like BCU often have no way to train their broadcasting students unless the HBCU is able to obtain an LPFM license. In most of the southern United States, where nearly all HBCUs are located, almost no full-power licenses are available anymore,” wrote Honig. For years the commission participated in segregation by adopting licensing policies that gave a leg up to applicants with “past broadcast experience” or “past broadcast record,” according to Honig, who said this case presents the newly constituted commission “an early opportunity to express its enthusiasm for LPFM and for diversity.”