FCC redenies LPTV bid for Class A status


Low power television station WFUN-LP Miami FL applied for and was granted Class A status way back in the year 2000, but its failure to comply with the obligations of a Class A licensee resulted in objections from third parties and reversion to LPTV status. After a petition to reconsider filed in 2005 failed to gain traction, licensee LocalOne Texas Ltd. has tried again.

According to the FCC, LPTVs applying for the upgrade to Class A are immediately liable for Class A obligations, even while the application is being considered. But it appears that the station was not even living up to the somewhat less rigorous standards that LPTVs and most other broadcast licensees are responsible for.

School Board of Broward County and Sherjan Broadcasting Company filed timely petitions to reconsider the grant of Class A status, and FCC staff found a laundry list of inadequacies in checking into the situation.

The FCC noted, “The staff found that, first, LocalOne failed to staff the site with at least one management-level employee and one staff-level employee at all times during regular business hours. LocalOne’s employees admitted that they did not meet this requirement. Second, contrary to an earlier claim the station admitted that its local telephone number was not publicly available until May 2002. Third, LocalOne did not maintain adequate production equipment at the main studio location. Fourth, the station’s local public inspection file was not ‘available for public inspection at any time during regular business hours,’ as evidenced by the reconsideration petitioners’ repeated unsuccessful attempts to inspect the file at the site.”

In its new petition for recondiration, LocalOne said the main studio requirement was not clear at the time it applied for the upgrade. The FCC diagreed, noting that they were right there in the Federal Register – as regular readers of this space are no doubt aware, the FCC expects licensees to be aware of the rules.

LocalOne also said that its employees visited the station more frequently than was shown on the record, but the FCC said even if that was true, “the staff’s decision relied on the totality of the evidence, including LocalOne’s objections” and on that basis determined the rescission of Class A status was appropriate.

The FCC concluded that it was within its rights to simply dismiss the current petition for reconsideration, but denied it instead.

RBR-TVBR observation: After the FCC spent the past year seemingly bent on finding reasons to downgrade Class A stations to LPTV status, any attempt to move a station in the other direction is not doubt facing stiff headwinds.