Taking a station off the air is often the last resort of a broadcast company in desperate financial times.  While Payroll Protection Act loans have helped many small broadcasters avoid that action even in light of the dramatic decrease in broadcast advertising revenue in the last two months, and some relief may come in areas of the country looking at some reopening of business in the coming weeks, we have still heard of some stations that just can’t manage continued operations in this period of turmoil – either for financial or operational reasons caused by the current health crisis.  If this action is in the cards for your station because of the pandemic or for any other reason including technical failures, do not forget about the FCC requirements for taking a station silent.

When a broadcast station goes silent, it must notify the FCC of that status within 10 days of going off the air.  If the situation will continue for a longer period, a request for Special Temporary Authority providing the reasons for going off the air must be filed within 30 days of going silent.  These STAs are granted for no more than 6 months at a time, so that date should be noted for the filing of any extension that may be needed.  But be careful, as if a station is silent for a full year, Section 312(g) of the Communications Act provides that the license will be cancelled unless the FCC makes an affirmative finding that there are special public interest reasons for not taking that action (a finding made in very rare cases).  When stations resume operations, they must notify the FCC that they are back on the air.  But to be considered back on the air, there must be programming – running a test pattern is insufficient (see the case we wrote about here).  Even with authority to remain silent, there are risks.
Continue Reading Broadcast Stations Going Silent – What You Need to Do

The failure to follow FCC filing rules when a station finished construction of new facilities under a construction permit will apparently cost a radio station $7000 according to a recent Notice of Apparent Liability released by the Commission’s Media Bureau.  Before a broadcast station can make most changes to its technical facilities, it must apply to the FCC for approval, which the FCC grants by way of a construction permit.  In most cases, the broadcaster has 3 years to construct the proposed facilities.  Once construction is complete, the broadcaster must notify the FCC of that fact by filing an application for a license on FCC Form 302.  That form gives details of the construction, so that the FCC can tell that the station was built in the manner authorized by the construction permit, and in accordance with any conditions placed on construction in the permit.  In this case, the broadcaster built the new facilities that it proposed within the 3 year period, but forgot to file the Form 302 – and only did so 3 years after the end of the construction period.  Under this Notice, the late filing, and the failure to ask for special temporary authority ("STA") to operate the station after the failure to file was discovered, may cost the station $7000.

In the past, the FCC had allowed some stations to file their license application late, if construction had occurred in a timely fashion, and where the licensee provided proof of the timely construction.  In this decision, the FCC found that these cases were situations where the late filing was for an insignificant period of time – a few days or weeks at the most, not for the years that went by in the case here.  The late filing, and the fact that, as the construction permit had expired and no license had been granted, the station was deemed to have been operating without authority at the new site, warranted the $7000 fine in the FCC’s opinion.  The case not only serves as a reminder to those with construction permits to file their license applications on time after they complete construction, but also shows that while the FCC may show some flexibility in enforcing its procedural rules, it will not allow licensees to ignore them for long periods.  So be careful to meet the requirements of the rules, or look for big fines from the Commission. 


Continue Reading $7000 Fine for Radio Operator Who Builds Construction Permit But Forgets to File a License Application