In a decision released last week, the FCC made clear that stations that have long periods in which they are not operated (perhaps being put back into operation for a day or two every year to avoid the automatic cancellation of their licenses) are not operating in the public interest, and are putting their license in jeopardy. In last week’s decision, the station had been essentially silent for most of the last 4 years of its license renewal period (sometimes forgetting to ask for FCC permission to stay silent – which is required whenever a station is silent for 30 days). The FCC decided to fine the licensee $5000, and give it a short-term renewal, renewing the license for only two years (instead of the normal 8), while allowing it to be sold to another operator.
That decision is consistent with another decision about which we wrote here, where a similar fine and short-term renewal was issued to a broadcaster whose station had been silent for extended periods. These cases serve as a warning to broadcasters who may be facing economic difficulties who think that they can simply stop operating until someone comes along to make them an acceptable offer to buy their station. The FCC seems to be saying that you can’t just sit around with a silent station and wait – you need to move quickly to do something with your station to get it back on the air to avoid penalties and, in an extreme case, perhaps the loss of your license.