The FCC recently fined a station $8500 for not having an operational EAS system for almost two years, and for not having a main studio that was manned during normal business hours. The EAS fine was evident, as the station did not dispute that it did not have an operational EAS system in place. It did, however, challenge the conclusion that it should be fined for having a main studio that was not manned during normal business hours. The licensee argued that the studio was not manned because of the precarious financial state of the station following the termination of an LMA. It said that, when faced with the choice of taking the station off the air because it could not afford to pay a staff to man the main studio or violating the staffing requirements, it decided to violate the rules. The FCC said that the lack of financial resources was not an excuse for operating within the rules, and thus issued the fine (though reducing the cumulative amount of the fine based on the station’s inability to pay more).
The Commission did suggest that the station could have asked for a waiver of the main studio staffing requirements based on its financial distress (though it did not say if it would have granted such a request). But making the choice to violate the FCC’s rules without even trying to ask for permission was essentially asking for trouble. The FCC’s policies require that stations have main studios manned during normal business hours, Two employees are supposed to be based out of that studio, using it as their principal place of business, and at least one of them must be physically present and available at the studio during the business day. Observe those rules, or risk an FCC fine.