Section 312(g) of the Communications Act authorizes the FCC to cancel the license of any broadcast station that has not operated for a full year. In a recent case, the Commission clarified when it would choose to use that authority to cancel the license of a station that had not been on the air with authorized facilities within that one year period. In this case, the FCC decided not to cancel the license of a station whose tower was destroyed, where the station came back on the air from the old site but with reduced facilities before the end of the one year period, even though the resumption of operations was initially conducted without FCC authority for the low power operation. The station did, however, ask for Special Temporary Authority to operate with these facilities, authority which was not granted until several weeks after the station had resumed operation. As the station had requested the authority to resume operations, and had been candid with the FCC about its operations and intentions, the Commission did not cancel the license, but it did fine the station $7000 for operating with unauthorized facilities during the period before the STA was granted.
The decision distinguished the actions of the licensee here with that of the licensee in another case, about which we wrote here, where the FCC canceled the license of a station that was forced off the air at its licensed site, and came back on the air just before the end of the one year period from a totally new site where it had no FCC authority, and where it could not get FAA approval for operations. The Commission stated that the element of deception in the earlier case, with the station coming on the air at a site where it could not get FCC approval as the FAA had refused its operations from the site, was the distinguishing factor which caused that station license to be canceled.
Being straight with the FCC with is always the best policy. The FCC is not anxious to cancel licenses, as they do not want listeners to lose service. If a licensee can get a station that has been off the air for a significant period of time back into operation, the operator should be able to get the FCC to authorize the operation if the FCC is given sufficient time to process the request, either through a new construction permit or through an STA (especially if the service from the temporary area is inside the current station contour). Take these steps, plan ahead, and avoid the potential loss of license or fine that may otherwise result.