FCC Character Policy Front and Center in Hearing Proceeding

Posted on February 23rd, 2021 by

The FCC is set to apply its character policies in a case where it recently designated several license renewal applications for hearing.

In the case, the 100% shareholder of the licensee was convicted of several felonies under Alabama law – two counts of soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a principal, one count of using an official position for personal gain, two counts of representing, for compensation, a business entity before an executive department or agency, and one count of using public property for private benefit.  The FCC’s hearing designation order states that the shareholder is in the custody of the Alabama state penal system for a four-year sentence.

As a consequence of the convictions, the FCC stated that substantial and material questions exist as to whether the individual possesses the basic character qualifications to hold Commission authorizations.

Under the Commission’s Character Qualifications Policy Statement, non-FCC misconduct can raise a substantial and material question of fact concerning a licensee’s character. In assessing character qualifications in broadcasting matters, the Commission considers, as relevant, evidence of any conviction for misconduct constituting a felony. Because all felonies are serious crimes, any conviction provides an indication of an applicant’s or licensee’s propensity to obey the law.

Almost every FCC application contains certifications related to felonies in connection with any party to the application.  Parties to an application include officers, directors and most shareholders of a licensee entity.  Broadcast licensees should exercise caution when adding individuals to hold those positions, as they can create issues that disqualify the licensee entity from being a broadcast licensee.