A mild case of piracy


When John L. White’s KOLJ-AM Quanah TX lost a tower to a storm, it correctly filed for an STA and go silent while it attended to its major repair project. When it returned, the new version of the station had slightly modified engineering parameters. Long story short – that’s unauthorized operation, otherwise known as spectrum piracy.

The station was knocked off the air 6/5/08 and promptly applied for the STA to remain silent four days later. In approving the STA, the FCC noted it had until 6/6/09 to get back on the air.

It handily beat that deadline, returning to the air 3/19/09, but with a different electrical height – it went from 93.4 electrical degrees to 75.7 electrical degrees; and with night power reduced from 73 watts to 63 watts. It accompanied notification of the return to air and changes with a request for another STA to operate with the new parameters.

The FCC didn’t get around to approving the STA until 7/22/09 – meaning that the station was guilty of unauthorized operation. The FCC actually approved the STA, but pointed out that the changes should have been approved before the new facility was built, with a Form 301 required for the tower change, followed by license to cover permit on 302-AM.

White was fined $3K for failure to file the correct form. The FCC pointed out that it could go as high as $10K for unauthorized operation, but since the licensee was entirely truthful throughout the proceeding and made no attempt to hide anything whatsoever from the FCC, it reduced that portion of the fine to $4K for a $7K total.

RBR-TVBR observation: Just one more example proving that not only is candor just about the chief expectation of the FCC, and is sometimes handsomely rewarded.