FCC lambastes Florida LPFM for egregious offense


It wasn’t bad enough that WRLE-LP in Dunnellon FL was operating an uncertified transmitter. It wasn’t even enough that it was emitting a “spurious” signal that was interfering with FAA air traffic control frequencies. Nope – WRLE personnel took it two steps further by twice refusing orders to turn the thing off.

The station, which is licensed to Power Ministries, operates on 94.9 MHz with 72 W @ 115’.

However, the interference to the FAA’s Jacksonville Center was taking place on 133.75 MHz, and was traced to WRLE.

Here, per the FCC, is what happened next: “Agents from the Tampa Office explained to a representative of the station, the only person present at the station, that it was causing interference to the FAA and was creating an ongoing safety hazard.  The representative refused to turn off the transmitter.  An agent spoke to the station owner on the telephone, reiterating the safety of life hazard and requesting that the station turn off its transmitter.  The station owner refused to turn off the transmitter or instruct his station representative to do so, unless his station engineer was present.  After a considerable delay, almost thirty minutes after the agents first arrived, the station owner arrived and allowed the agents to inspect the station.  The agents observed that the Station was using a transmitter that was not certified by the FCC. After the station owner shut down the transmitter, the spurious emissions and interference to the FAA ceased.”

Eventually, PM admitted it was using an unauthorized transmitter, which has since been replaced.

The FCC said the base fine for this violation is $5K, but in view of the station’s doubled refusal to shut down, the fine was jacked all the way up to $12K.

RBR-TVBR observation: For some time now, the operators of low power facilities have been granted wide leniency from the Commission when it comes to punitive financial penalties, paying fines in the hundreds of dollars for violations that would cost a full-power operator into the thousands of dollars. This is therefore a highly unusual case in which the FCC took a fine in the thousands and more than doubled it.

The whole situation is really rather amazing. Since we received our learner’s permit to operate a motor vehicle, we have known that if you get pulled over you do not have to agree with the arresting officer, but it is an extremely good idea to be polite and to instantly obey any and all reasonable requests the officer may make. That innate sense that most law-abiding citizens we know seem to have been born with was apparently lacking at this station.

And if the FCC had doubled the fine again up to $24K, we’d applaud. The last thing we wish to think about is that a pilot is trying to land a plane that might include ourselves, our loved ones, or for that matter, anybody at all among the passengers, and is getting garbled instructions because somebody is operating a broadcast station on equipment that is not up to standard.