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Oklahoma Low-Power FM Faces Big Fine

Enid Public Radio gets $10,000 penalty after FCC finds ‘pattern of abuse’

Ten thousand dollars is likely a lot of money for any low-power FM station, but that’s the amount of the penalty pending against KEIF(LP) in Enid, Okla., for operating with unauthorized antenna height and for airing spots.

The commission also has renewed the station’s license but only until next June, saying KEIF will have to comply with certain strictures in future to keep its authorization.

The Audio Division of the Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission has issued a notice of apparent liability to KEIF, licensed to Enid Public Radio Association and formerly known as KUAL(LP). Not helping matters: Enid Public Radio had been scolded before for violations of program underwriting rules; it was not fined at the time based on what then a blemish-free enforcement record.

The new ruling comes about because in 2005, another broadcaster, Chisolm Trail Broadcasting, complained that KEIF was operating with a height above average terrain of about 62 meters, approximately 29 meters higher than authorized, and with effective radiated power of 155 watts, compared to the authorized 82 watts.

Chisolm also complained that KEIF was airing and selling commercials on its noncom educational station; that its classic rock format wasn’t consistent with the educational mission described in its license; and that the station had made an unauthorized transfer of control in allowing its chief engineer to assume a position on the board without proper approval. Chisolm contended that Chief Engineer Scott Clark actually controlled the board of directors.

The FCC did not accept Chisolm’s arguments about unauthorized transfer of control or the station’s content. But it did agree on the HAAT complaint, based on an exterior inspection by engineer William H. Nolan and submitted by Chisolm. (The commission rejected the unauthorized power complaint, saying Nolan hadn’t used the right signal strength methodology or provided enough data.)

The commission also decided that the low-power station had indeed been selling spots; KEIF had even produced a rate card and advertising package, and some of the same commercials heard in 2004 were still airing in 2007, three years after the earlier FCC warning, according to the commission.

The FCC said the station failed to respond or to contradict the evidence put forward by Chisholm Trail, so the staff issued the maximum fine of $5,000 for the tower height violation and adjusted its usual fine for “enhanced underwriting” violations upward from $2,000 to $5,000.

It also said Enid Public Radio has demonstrated “a pattern of abuse,” so the commission granted renewal of its license only until June of next year (technically a six-year renewal, dating to 2005). Now the station must lower its antenna HAAT, show that it is in technical compliance and begin filing regular lists of program underwriters, on-air announcements acknowledging donations and other documentation.

Enid Public Radio Association has 30 days to file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation.