The FCC doesn’t like it when stations transmit their signal from a location different than the one from which they’re authorized for.
That’s why the agency has proposed an $8,000 fine for Fellowship, licensee of WFWO(FM), Medina, N.Y.
The noncommercial station is authorized to transmit on 89.7 MHz from Presbyterian Road in Knowelsville, N.Y.
Responding to a complaint in October 2012, an agent from the Enforcement Bureau’s Philadelphia office traced the signal back to the Fellowship Christian Center in Buffalo, some 36 miles from Knowelsville. The agent also took field strength measurements to determine if WFWO’s power levels were low enough to operate under Part 15 of its rules. The FCC said in its decision that WFWO exceeded the maximum permitted level of 250 μV/m at 3 meters for nonlicensed devices and, therefore, required a license to operate.
Fellowship President John Young told the commission the station stopped operating from its original transmitter site so the property owner could remove some trees around the antenna. Young was also operating a one-watt low-powered transmitter on 89.7MHz in Buffalo.
The agent told Young to stop operating the transmitter from Buffalo, because it was over-powered for Part 15 operation and not the authorized location. The FCC said Young agreed and the agency followed up with a Notice of Unlicensed Operation, warning the licensee of a violation and that a fine may be imposed.
A director of engineering from a licensed Buffalo station told the FCC in November of 2012 that WFWO was transmitting again from Buffalo. The Enforcement Bureau agent confirmed that and inspected the facility. Young claimed he was unaware the station was operational and alleged that his children must have turned on the transmitter in Buffalo, according to the FCC’s account.
Fellowship eventually filed a request for an STA to remain silent; that was granted this April.
The base fine for this type of violation is $4,000, however the FCC raised it to $8,000, saying the licensee’s conduct in this case is “egregious.” Moving its transmitter more than 30 miles to a more populated area gave WFWO “a significantly larger listening audience while potentially causing economic or competitive harm” to stations that are actually licensed to Buffalo, said the FCC in its decision.
Fellowship has 30 days to appeal or pay.