New Media Bureau policy opens door for reduced fines for first-time violators of some paperwork rules.
The FCC’s enforcement actions often leave us shaking our heads wondering if the bureaucracy recognizes the challenges faced in real life by those it regulates. But occasionally there are rays of hope. Case in point: the Media Bureau has revised its policy for enforcing certain paperwork obligations against student-staffed noncommercial educational (NCE) radio broadcast stations. The revised policy provides an opportunity for such stations to avoid crushing forfeitures which could end up shutting the stations down.
Last July, we blogged about the stifling impact of the FCC’s forfeitures on student-operated stations. Because of frequent student staff turnover, such stations can be prone to rule violations, which in turn result in steep forfeitures often amounting to a substantial portion of -- indeed, sometimes even more than -- the station’s annual budget. That happens when the fine is based on the Commission’s schedule of “standard” forfeitures even without any upward adjustments.
While some stations hit with fines have argued to the Commission that their budgets can’t sustain the forfeiture amount, the FCC has historically ignored such claims. Instead, it has looked to the resources of the entire educational institution, rather than just the station itself, presumably (but unrealistically) assuming that the institution would pay up. Unfortunately, as we reported in our earlier post here,even though many institutions do pay up, the threat of further severe regulatory enforcement has apparently led some institutions to sell their stations, thereby eliminating opportunities for entry and training of young people in the art of broadcasting.
But now the Bureau has a new policy.Continue Reading...