FCC bases ability to pay on gross, not net


Lancaster Educational Broadcasting Foundation is the licensee on non-commercial WFCO-FM in Lancaster OH. It went over the line from underwriting into commercial speech some 20 times during a college football broadcast, and does not dispute that fact. What is at issue is whether it is poor enough to duck the fine. The FCC says no, but it did offer some relief.

In many cases, penalized licensees cite inability to pay and leave it at that. It is a sure way to get a turn-down. The FCC requires solid financial documentation, preferably a tax return, before it will make a decision on that count.

LEBF did provide ample records, for 2006, 2007, 2008 and part of 2009.

It says that its net income is substantially less than the total amount of the fine, which was set at $7.5K, and that being required to pay the fine would possibly put it out of business.

The FCC countered that it goes by gross revenue, not net revenue, and that LEBF is well within precedent as being able to pay the fine.

As for not have enough cash on hand to pay it off in a lump sum, the offered some relief. It said that with proper documentation, LEBF may apply to pay off its penalty in installments, which will keep it from being suddenly driven out of business.

And there was still a little more relief forthcoming. LEBF had asked also that its record of overall compliance be taken into account. The FCC did that, and found it worthy of a $1.5K reduction, bringing the total penalty down to $6K.