As we have been reporting for the past two or so years, the FCC has been paying close attention to how well Class A television licensees adhere to children’s television guidelines, with fines and other punishment being doled out. One licensee tried to wriggle out of a penalty.
The licensee, Guenter Marksteiner, operates WHDT-CD Miami FL and WYDT-CA Naples FL.
Both were issued a notice of apparent liability for failing on a number of occasions to file their reports on children’s television broadcasts with the FCC. The total financial penalty assessed to Marksteiner was $12K.
The issuance of a financial penalty was a victory in a way – many Class A licensees failed to respond to two FCC inquiries into similar violations, and as a result had their station licenses degraded from Class A to LPTV, losing certain protections and, importantly, the right to participate in the upcoming incentive auction program. Indeed, the status of LPTVs regarding that auctions has not been fully addressed yet, and some may be existing on precarious terms.
Marksteiner dodged that bullet by timely responding, but nonetheless tried two arguments to have the fine cancelled or reduced.
In the effort to get it cancelled, Marksteiner said the FCC’s electronic filing system was to blame – he said it functioned inconsistently.
The FCC countered that there was no evidence to sustain this claim; meanwhile, there was ample evidence to sustain the FCC’s contention that the reports were filed late. Marksteiner argument rejected.
The second point was that the two stations were airing identical children’s programming in their respective markets, and that hitting them both with fines constituted a “double penalty.”
The FCC said, “The fact that the Licensee chose to broadcast identical programming on two separate stations does not reduce its liability for separate violations of the Commission’s rules for each of its stations. Based on this argument, we find no basis to reduce the standard forfeiture amount for those separate violations.”
The FCC did demonstrate its sense of fairness in this case. Marksteiner had filed his petition for reconsideration in a timely manner, but the actual FCC staffers handling the case had not received it when they turned the NAL into a forfeiture order. They correctly considered the petition even though the FO had already been published.
However, the FO stands – Marksteiner still owes $12K.