Nearly two years after the Federal Communications Commission proposed a $66,000 fine against an Alaskan broadcaster for a variety of technical and broadcast violations, including failure to live up to its Emergency Alert System obligations, it has agreed to a settlement that will significantly reduce the penalty. Kenai Educational Media will instead pay $2,000 in a series of payments to the government over the next year.
In an order released Wednesday, the FCC said Kenai “does not contest the violations” but instead requested the fine be reduced or cancelled since it wasn’t able to pay such a steep penalty. The Commission said after reviewing the financial information submitted by the company proving its claim that it wasn’t able to pay the proposed fine, it has instead opted to enter into a consent decree with Kenai. The order acknowledges the decision was based in part on the risk of putting news-talk “Seward Public Radio” KIBH-FM Seward, AK (91.7) out of business, noting it’s the only full-service radio station licensed to serve the rural area—including proving provide public safety alerts to local residents through the Emergency Alert System.
Under the consent decree, Kenai Educational Media admits it violated the FCC rules. And through February 2022 it will take a series of steps to ensure similar violations don’t happen again. They include appointing a compliance officer who’ll ensure all of its stations are meeting the FCC’s rules and have working EAS. Kenai will also draw up a compliance plan and a manual for employees to follow. It also pledges to conduct staff training. And Kenai will also file annual compliance reports with the FCC through January 2022 as well as self-reporting any slip-ups.
As Inside Radio reported in July 2017 when the original fine was announced, the penalty followed years of multiple warnings to KIBH-FM related to its EAS and other technical and bookkeeping violations. The station’s problems included having its EAS receiver programmed to another station that served a geographic area other than where KIBH-FM operates.
A visiting Enforcement Bureau field agent discovered KIBH-FM had set its EAS for alert messages not for the Kenai Peninsula where the station is located but rather for KVHZ (1430) in Wasilla, AK—200 miles away. The FCC said the station also failed to monitor at least two EAS sources and that it didn’t make information about how to operate the EAS available to staff as required.
In addition to its apparent EAS violations, a variety of other violations of station rules were discovered at KIBH-FM by a field agent from the FCC’s Anchorage office who traveled to Seward in June 2013. The list included a failure to maintain much of the required bookkeeping that included maintaining a local public inspection file, station logs, main studio staffing, and failure to designate a chief operator of the station. Only adding to its problems, the FCC said until it issued the fine, Kenai failed to respond to any of the Commission’s requests for more information dating back to 2013.