This week, the Commission imposed a $13,000 fine on Radiant Light Broadcasting (RLB), the licensee of two low-power television (LPTV) stations for failing to timely file license to cover applications, and thus operating without licenses for four years.
The stations, KRLB-LD and KWWO-LD, were granted construction permits for digital displacement channels and special temporary authority to begin operations at the new stations, after being displaced by the FCC’s Incentive Auction and repacking process. RLB completed construction and began operating at the new facilities in 2018. However, RLB failed to file timely applications for licenses to cover after commencing operations and before the expiration of the construction permits in June of 2021, filing late applications for licenses to cover in August of 2022 and arguing that the Commission should process and approve these applications. The FCC stated that the failure to file a license to cover after completion of construction resulted in unauthorized operation of the stations for over four years and elected to impose forfeitures, characterizing the violation as willful and repeated, since an action may be “repeated” for the purposes of FCC rules if it occurs more than once or continuously for more than one day. RLB claimed that its failure to timely submit applications for licenses to cover was due to the fact that it was not represented by counsel at the time, but the FCC rejected this excuse as insufficient to relieve RLB from liability for forfeiture, stating that licensees are responsible for compliance with Commission rules and that ignorance of a rule or law is no excuse for failure to comply with it — a violation may be willful irrespective of any intent to violate the law if the action is merely conscious and deliberate. Finding that RLB’s violation represented an extreme disregard of the Commission’s licensing processes and rules, the FCC imposed a $6,500 penalty for each station, a higher amount than is usually assessed against LPTV stations, but stated that it would process the license applications.
If you have questions about compliance with FCC licensing regulations or any FCC broadcast regulations, please contact a Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth attorney.