In another sign of a toughened stance against public file violations, the Federal Communications Commission has slapped Seaview Communications WPEX (90.9) Kenbridge, VA with a $15,000 fine and renewed its license for only two years instead of a full-term of eight years. The action comes after the FCC began warning stations that it’s watching their public files and that compliance problems will bring potential fines if the files aren’t complete by license renewal time.
In a Memorandum Opinion and Order and Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture released Tuesday (Oct. 8), the Media Bureau socked the gospel-formatted station with two violations: failing to prepare required quarterly issues and programs lists; and failing to upload this information into its online public inspection file.
FCC rules requires stations to maintain a public inspection file and update it quarterly with an issues and programs list detailing programs that have provided “significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three-month period.” As of March 2018, all radio stations were required to upload public file documents to the Commission’s online public inspection file database.
In filing its license renewal application, WPEX said it had “difficulties navigating” the online public inspection file and that caused it to miss some filing deadlines. But according to the FCC Notice, the station didn’t upload any documents to the file during its entire license term.
The FCC’s base rules stipulate a $10,000 fine for failure to maintain a station’s public file and $3,000 for failure to file the required information. The FCC justifies its $15,000 fine this way: $12,000 for failure to prepare any quarterly issues and programs lists during the license term and 3,000 for not uploading issues and programs lists into the online public file.
“It is a licensee’s responsibility to comply with Commission Rules,” Albert Shuldiner, Audio Division Chief of the FCC’s Media Bureau, said in the Notice. “Accordingly, we find that, considering the record as a whole, a $15,000 forfeiture is appropriate for the violations in this case.”
The Media Bureau also says that WPEX’s conduct “has fallen far short of the standard of compliance” that would pave the way for a routine license renewal. The “willful and repeated violations” are serious enough that they warrant a short-term license renewal of two years, it said.