FCC Fines FM Duo Ahead Of Colonial Sale


On Sept. 20, RBR + TVBR reported that the Andrulonis family’s Colonial Media and Entertainment is adding two class A FMs in coastal South Carolina to its growing stable of stations in the region. 

For $240,000, Colonial is acquiring Talk WXJY-FM 93.7 in Georgetown, S.C. and simulcast partner WJXY-FM 93.9 in Conway, S.C., which serves the Myrtle Beach area, from Joule Broadcasting.

Eddie Esserman of Media Services Group represented Joule Broadcasting in this deal, which was contingent on the stations’ license renewal by the FCC.

The stations’ licenses were just renewed, but at a price.

The FCC’s Media Bureau determined that Joule “apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Section 73.3526 of the FCC’s rules by failing to retain all required documentation in the WXJY-FM public inspection file,” slapping it with a $12,000 forfeiture.

A nearly identical Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture for WJXY-FM was also sent to Joule, penalizing it with an additional $10,000 forfeiture for similar violations of its public inspection file rules.

The fines are the result of Joule selecting “No” when asked in Section III, Item 3 of the license renewal application form (FCC Form 303-S) that the documentation required has been placed in the station’s public inspection file at the appropriate times.

Specifically, Joule told the FCC that copies of eight reports from 2004-2009 were not placed in the WXJY file at the required time; corrective action was taken.

But, it gets worse: “The licensee is unable to locate reports for 10 quarters in 2004 – 2007.  Unfortunately, due to numerous personnel changes . . .  there is no one employed currently at the station . . . who has knowledge of the reports for the early years of the term – prior to 2008. . . .  Therefore, the licensee cannot recreate the 10 missing reports from this early period in the license term.”

That did not sit well with the FCC, which was then told in a November 2011 amendment that some 25 lists for Q3 2004-Q3 2010 were missing. Fifteen of the missing lists were recreated.

Following this activity, WXJY on May 19, 2014 participated in the South Carolina Broadcasters Association’s Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program and received a Certificate of Compliance.

Why then the forfeiture, and one beyond its base amount? The FCC says WXJY is still deficient.

“It is clear to us that Licensee’s conduct has fallen far short of the standard of compliance with the Act, and the FCC’s rules that would warrant a routine license renewal,” the FCC ruled. “Licensee apparently failed to timely prepare and file 25 issues/programs lists for most of the license period.  The issues/programs lists are a significant and representative indication that a licensee is providing substantial service to meet the needs and interests of its community.”

Meanwhile, WJXY was found to be missing seven reports from 2008-2010, which were recreated. But, station management is unable to locate reports for 10 quarters in 2004-2007.

Joule explained of WJXY’s missing files, “Due to changes in software and computer systems prior to 2008, the licensee has been unable to locate any documentation regarding the programming carried during those years that dealt with issues of local concern.”

In addition, WJXY was unable to locate the annual EEO public file reports for 2005 and 2008.

Like WXJY, this station on May 19, 2014, participated in the South Carolina Broadcasters Association’s Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program and received a “Certificate of Compliance.”

RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: Merry Christmas, Joule. Please pay us for your stations’ ancient errors. Jeez, Joule — we wish you had Ken Benner’s Media Information Bureau columns on public file compliance all those years ago. But, that’s the thing: How can the FCC issue $22,000 in forfeitures for transgressions that occurred more than seven years ago? Don’t most people toss their tax records and have them shredded after five years. So, what’s the point of penalizing the licensee now? Well, the answer is likely, “We need the money to fund our operation,” if you ask some who have opined for this publication. The public file is of importance: we get that. But, to what extent? With a new FCC set to take shape in less than a month, we hope the forfeitures for such past mistakes are reduced or eliminated. Would you penalize your husband for borrowing his dad’s car without permission when he was 17, just so you gained the upper hand and as a result benefited financially by earning a nice little gift as an apology? That’s what we see in these forfeitures — jewels from Joule in the Treasury coffers.