It must have been a bad day at college station WSBU when the student-run station in New York state got a letter from the FCC informing it that their license had expired more than four years earlier, that they had been operating since then without authorization and they needed to shut down immediately.
The station is licensed to St. Bonaventure University in New York state. Its renewal application should have been filed by Feb. 1, 2006. (Applications must be filed “not later than the first day of the fourth full calendar month prior to the expiration date of the license sought to be renewed.”)
The FCC staff wrote to the station in September of 2010 telling it to shut down; WSBU then filed for an STA to keep operating. It told the commission that it is a student-run station with yearly staff turnover, and that nobody now at the station would have received notification that a license renewal application was due in 2006.
It also said it had not received any “follow-up” information regarding its renewal until the 2010 letter.
This week, in issuing a proposed fine, the FCC wrote: “Although the licensee claims that the failure to file a timely renewal application for the station was unintentional and resulted from staff turnover at the student-run station, the commission has held that violations resulting from inadvertent error or failure to become familiar with the FCC’s requirements are willful violations.”
However, the FCC acknowledged that such violations are not comparable to the actions of “pirate” stations, and it reduced the usual $10,000 base fine for unauthorized operations. The Media Bureau now has issued a tentative $7,000 penalty while approving the station’s license renewal.