A consent decree, requiring $50,000 payment to the FCC by the licensee and programmer of a noncommercial radio station, demonstrates two potential problem areas for broadcasters involved in LMA or Time Brokerage (TBA) arrangements. First, for noncommercial licensees it makes clear that the programmer cannot be paying the licensee any more for the programming time on the station than the costs of operation of the station itself – the licensee cannot “profit” from the LMA payments and use money for other non-broadcast activities of the licensee. Second, for any party engaged in an LMA, it is important for the licensee to maintain control over station operations – even if the bulk of the programming is coming from its LMA partner.
The lesson of this case for the noncommercial licensee is that an LMA can’t be looked at as a revenue-generating activity for the licensee. In this case, the licensee received significant LMA payments that were about twice the amount of the actual costs of its operation of the station. These excess payments were to be credited to the ultimate purchase price of the station should the programmer choose to exercise an option at the end of the LMA term. However, these payments were apparently not characterized as option fees, but instead as LMA payments.
Continue Reading $50,000 Penalty for LMA Operations – No Payments in Excess of Expenses for Noncommercial Licensees, and a Reminder that Licensee Must Remain in Control