The bad news for Valleydale Broadcasting LLC is that it is being hit with a fine for failing to get a required document in to the FCC on time regarding its CP for a new FM in Vaiden MS. The good news is that it still holds the license for an infraction that usually results in its surrender.
Valleydale won its CP 5/23/11, setting in motion the requirement to submit a long-form FCC Form 301 by 6/30/11. It didn’t make it to the FCC until 7/21/11.
Valleydale explained that the reason the form was late was because the station it was planning to build relied on the lack of intent for another licensee to build out WAGR-FM Lexington MS. The Valleydale station would be short-spaced to WAGR, but Valleydale was told the station was not going to be built.
However, at the last minute, the WAGR owner changed course, and Valleydale suddenly found itself scrambing to find a new transmitter location that would provide the necessary protection to the resurgent WAGR.
Valleydale also pled that the infraction was minor, did not hold up the overall auction process, and building the station was in the public interest.
In discussing the case, the FCC immediately brought up the death penalty. “Ordinarily, a winning bidder that fails to timely file the required long-form application is deemed to have defaulted, its application is dismissed, and it is subject to the default payment…”
However, in this case it generally agreed with Valleydale in most particulars and is allowing it to keep the license and construct the station in the form of granting it a waiver of the filing deadline. In particular, the FCC concluded that Valleydale was not acting in bad faith.
The FCC’s generosity did not extend to getting out of the fine, set at $3K. “In this case, Valleydale was on notice that it was responsible for timely submitting its post-auction Form 301 application, but failed timely to file the Application. Valleydale contends that it relied on certain representations with regard to its preferred transmitter site. However, regardless of WAGR-FM’s licensee’s intentions or representations, Valleydale was required to protect the Channel 273C3 allotment at Lexington, and thus was required to take this into account when securing a transmitter site.”
So the fine stands.
RBR-TVBR observation: There’s good new for counsel in this one. One of Valleydale’s pleas was that it lacked counsel throughout this sequence of events.
The FCC’s words may be music to the ears of our friends in the legal and consulting engineering communities. The FCC said, “Further, while Valleydale states that it acted without benefit of counsel, we note that the decision not to retain counsel was Valleydale’s alone.”
We see it as the FCC’s way of saying that a licensee that represents itself before the Commission without adequate regulatory know-how has a fool for a client.