College station hit with full force FCC file fine


A New Hampshire non-commercial FM licensed to Colby-Sawyer College applied for its license renewal in late 2005, and admitted at that time that it was missing the issues/programs lists from its public file for the years 2000-2002. It was hit with the standard $10K fine, and that fine has just been upheld.

WSCS-FM was able to reconstruct two of the missing lists using station logs, but most of the missing material remains lost to history.

The station did its best to duck the fine. It noted that it was non-commercial and committed to education; that it was essentially run by undergraduate students; and to seal the deal it promised to assign a faculty member to take charge of the public file.

The FCC said the usual, that none of these things mitigated the station’s duty to follow the rules and regulations. The $10K fine stands.

RBR-TVBR observation: The amazing thing in this case is that there is no indication that the station pleaded poverty – small noncoms often claim to be on a tight budget, and usually lose that argument because the institutions they are ultimately licensed to are solvent and/or they fail to provide IRS documents to prove their financial hardship case. Again, that was not the case in this instance.

A little while back, we suggested maybe the FCC should have let a small school-owned school off with an admonition for a similar regulatory oversight. We have thought about it since, and came to the realization that there is a good reason why the FCC might be wary of such charity, even if it was predisposed to it.

The reason can be summed up in one word: Lawyers. If a school-owned noncom got out of a fine, every lawyer from Key West to Nome would be citing the case when trying to get a client out of a similar fine. However, maybe a narrowly-crafted alternative fine rate card could be established that is specifically tailored for educational institutions with significant student management and operation of the station. We still do not like the idea of siphoning cash away from students for what are ultimately adult errors.