FCC to Class A Television Station: Pay Fine of Over $89,000

Posted on April 30th, 2014 by

We’ve heard of lowering the boom, but this boom is a pretty heavy one.  The FCC has issued a notice of apparent liability to a Class A station for $89,200.  Their sin?  Well, there were many sins, but the biggest was refusing to permit inspection of the station on two occasions.  When combined with main studio staffing violations and operating out of authorized parameters, the FCC decided to make the cash registers ring.

We’ll focus on the details of the refused station access.  The first time FCC inspectors tried to inspect the main studio, they were blocked by a locked gate.  The inspectors called, but were told to wait at the gate.  After 10 minutes, the manager showed up at the gate to explain that he was leaving for a doctor’s appointment.  He asked if the FCC inspectors could “come back the following day.”  The agents left without agreeing to come back the next day.  Phone calls to the listed station owner were not returned, and a follow up call to the main studio netted the manager’s cell phone, who promptly informed the inspectors that he was still at his doctor’s appointment.

Some 45 days later, the inspectors returned to the station during normal business hours.  The studio was still inaccessible due to the locked gate.  A call to the manager explaining that FCC inspectors were to be granted access only yielded a response that the gate was for security reasons.

Nine months later, the FCC dispatched a team to monitor the station’s transmissions from its authorized tower, only to discover that the station was actually operating from a different – and unauthorized — nearby tower.

Calling the actions of the station denying inspector access “simply unacceptable” and “a blatant disregard of and contempt for the Commission’s authority,” the FCC used the highest daily maximum fine authorized — $37,500 – and doubled it to $75,000.  It then added another $14,200 for main studio and unauthorized transmissions.

Lesson – violating a rule is one thing, but getting FCC inspectors really angry at you will only produce additional dollar signs or decimal places in the forfeiture proceeding.