The FCC rules are the FCC rules, whether you operate a behemoth broadcast group with outposts from coast to coast, or a small backwater station operated to serve a niche rather than to rake in piles of cash. The latest to find that out is WBLW-FM Gaylord MI, licensed to Grace Baptist Church.
The FCC requires a renewal application to be sent in no later than four months prior to the license expiration date. In the case of WBLW, not only had that date come and gone with no paperwork submitted, the license expired as well. The station didn’t get the application in until almost four months after expiration.
That made the station liable for two penalties — $3K for failing to renew and $4K for unauthorized operation. The FCC wasn’t buying the station’s argument that this constituted two fines for the same offense. And any station which is late but makes amends prior to license expiration benefits from a lower total penalty.
The station also pleaded ignorance as a new licensee, and lack of counsel, as a low-budget new licensee, but the FCC reminded it that it has a responsibility to be familiar with FCC rules and regulations.
It was able to get a reduction based on gross income. $7K would have constituted a fine of over 11% of the average gross for the period in question. The FCC thought that 5% was a reasonable assessment and therefore reduced the total liability to $3K.