Those Pesky FCC Application Questions Can Bite You

Posted on November 30th, 2016 by

Answering questions on an FCC application of any kind can sometimes seem tedious and a bit bewildering, depending on the wording of those questions, which is not always a model of clarity. But if you don’t pay close attention, a wrong answer can lead to scrutiny and consequences from the FCC.

A low power FM station application recently found this out the hard way, failing to disclose the ownership interest of one of the licensee’s principals in another broadcast station, something that would have disqualified the applicant absent a commitment for that individual to divest the ownership interest as a condition of the LPFM permit grant. Someone objected to the grant of the permit and pointed out the issue to the FCC. After some digging and a few mea culpas, the applicant came clean, disclosing the interest and agreeing to divest it. But that didn’t resolve the matter.

The FCC granted the application, but ordered the Media Bureau to commence an investigation and enforcement proceedings against the applicant for originally misrepresenting the ownership issue in the application. Commissioner Pai would have gone one further. In his concurring statement, he called for the matter to be designated for hearing to determine whether the applicant possessed the character and qualifications to hold an LPFM license. You can read the entire decision here, and Commissioner Pai’s statement here.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward – answer any question on any FCC application with absolute candor and only after understanding exactly what is being asked. Answers to application questions are representations to the FCC that are taken seriously. If there is any doubt, err on the side of caution in selecting your answer, and disclose any relevant information in an explanation or exhibit.