Broadcast Station Renewal Application Designated for Hearing

Posted on March 30th, 2021 by

The FCC recently designated the renewal application of a broadcast station for a hearing before an administrative law judge on the question of whether the licensee is fit to remain so in light of the extended periods of station silence during the prior license term.

The Order notes that the basic duty of broadcast licensees is to serve their communities and provide programming responsive to local needs and interests.  The AM station at issue had only operated for 16 days in 2018, 270 days in 2019, and two days in 2020.  To avoid automatic license forfeiture for being silent for 12 consecutive months, the station would temporarily operate and then request new temporary authority to remain silent.  The Media Bureau found the silent history to be wanting, and put the licensee into hearing.  The licensee may end up losing the license or only getting a short-term renewal.

Most often, stations need to go silent because of equipment failures, and those shorter-term silent periods do not raise licensee fitness issues.  But any time a station needs to be silent for extended periods, take extra caution and get back on the air as soon as possible.  Silent STAs require that stations resuming operations file a resumption notice and notify the FCC staff of the resumption by email.  Follow every procedure to prevent the FCC from inadvertently deleting the station license under the mistaken belief that it has been silent for 12 consecutive months.