GAP Broadcasting has not admitted to any wrong-doing, nor is it being charged with any, in connection with FM Auction No. 70, but it is going to make a $65K donation to the US Treasury and promise never to do it again. Yes, it’s yet another consent decree.
In this one, GAP was planning to bid on all 120 stick availabilities in the auction; so was another company – KM Communications. During the course of the bidding, GAP’s George Laughlin, who was running a growing group, called KM and asked if they were interested in selling any stations. He also mentioned that GAP was not planning to tender a bid for an allocation in Eldorado TX. This action, and the fact that the phone call was not immediately reported to the FCC, raised concerns of collusion in the bidding process.
In addition to enriching the treasury, GAP will institute a Compliance Plan, train appropriate company personnel and make regular reports to the Commission.
RBR/TVBR observation: Sometimes consent decrees are made simply to avoid protracted litigation, where a gray area in the regulations leave enough room for both the FCC and the licensee to believe they have a legitimate chance to win on the merits; but at the same time neither party is particularly interested in spending the time and resources to do so. The FCC gets to make its point, and the licensee emerges with a clean record, even if its wallet is a little lighter. We don’t know, but in this case, it looks like Laughlin was simply conducting an unrelated bit of business that was unfortunately coincidental with the auction. If that is true, then the consent decree option, in addition to offering its usual convenience, may also be the fairest option available.