FCC Issues Show Cause Order To Downgrade Class A TV Station

Posted on November 26th, 2014 by

The FCC has issued a show cause order to the licensee of a Class A television station, requiring the licensee to show why its license should not be downgraded to a LPTV license. A downgrade would mean that the station would no longer have interference protection and would neither be eligible for participation in the incentive auction or protected in a repacking scenario.

This is not the first time the FCC has issued such an order. However, prior orders have involved stations that simply didn’t respond to FCC inquiries related to unfiled forms and reports. In the current case, the issue involves a station’s extended silent periods as it navigated the digital transition and faced other impediments to operation. In its order, the FCC characterizes those as business decisions. The station had sought special temporary authority for its silent periods. However, against the backdrop of the requirement for Class A stations to operate at least 18 hours per day and air 3 hours per week of locally produced programming, the FCC concluded that the licensee should have notified the FCC of its inability to meet its Class A eligibility requirements and requested a change in station status.

In a statement about obtaining temporary authority that all Class A licensees should pay close attention to, the FCC declares that “the Commission has acknowledged that in appropriately compelling circumstances involving a temporary inability to comply, a licensee can apply for an STA to operate at variance with the Class A operational and programming requirements.” In the case before it, the licensee’s reasons for requesting silent status – awaiting authorization on another channel, and preparing for commencement of digital operations – did not meet the “compelling circumstances” standard for temporary authority.

We believe this proceeding will be a test case regarding the loss or retention of Class A status, and will report on it as developments warrant.