FCC Fines TV Station for Children’s TV and Public File Violations

Posted on April 30th, 2024 by

In the most recently concluded television station renewal cycle, rule violations were often addressed in consent decrees requiring stations to adopt compliance plans, but often avoiding monetary fines.  A few days ago, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for $3,000 to a Class A TV station licensee that violated the FCC’s children’s television and issues/programs reporting requirements.

One quarterly issues/programs list was uploaded over four years late.  The licensee explained that it had acquired the station at the end of that calendar quarter, and only programmed the station for the last two weeks of the quarter. The FCC rejected that excuse, noting that the licensee should have timely uploaded the list covering the programming during that two-week period.

The licensee also self-reported in its renewal application that it had now timely filed six children’s television reports prior to 2019 when the report was required to be filed quarterly. Three were filed one year late, two were filed one year and a month late, and one was one day late. The licensee claimed that it had misunderstood the rule and believed that it was not required to file children’s television reports.  The FCC rejected the argument, finding that lack of knowledge was no excuse for the violations.

The FCC could have fined the station substantially more but, based on various factors, concluded that a $3,000 fine was appropriate. The station’s license renewal application will remain pending and not be granted until the forfeiture is paid or the proceeding otherwise concluded.

All broadcast stations should take note that any late filings or public file uploads are significant matters before the FCC, risking fines and renewal application grant delays.  The FCC’s online public file uploads bear date-time stamps, so there is no way to escape scrutiny for late uploads. The same applies for FCC application filings that automatically appear in the public file (i.e., children’s television reports).  If your station does not have a built-in cross check to ensure timely filings and uploads, we recommend you implement one now.