It’s very hard to duck a public file fine


FCCDouble O Broadcasting did not deny that it was missing a number of the dreaded issues/programs lists in its public file, but it still didn’t think the FCC punished it properly. As usual, the FCC disagreed.

In the case of the station in question, WWNQ-FM Forest Acres SC (serving the state capital of Columbia SC), the availability of the files was hit or miss. They were absent for two 2005 quarters, three quarters in 2009, four of 2010 and one of 2011.

Double O was able to reconstitute the lists and did place them in the file, but did not deny that they were missing prior to that. The FCC hit it with the standard $10K fine for a public file violation.

Double O asked that it be cancelled or reduced on three grounds: FCC precedent to resort to an admonishment or lesser fine for stations in similar circumstances; the claim that the violation was not willful or repeated; and the fact that the FCC has treated more serious infractions less severely.

Regular readers of this space probably already know how this is going to go.

The FCC noted that the fine was consistent with comparable violations, and the fact that the lists were eventually put in the file does not mitigate that fact that for many years they were unavailable for public scrutiny.

A lot of fined licensees say they did not “willfully” break the rules, but in the FCC’s use of the term, the licensee willfully did not make sure it was in full compliance, or even fully aware of the rules. And in this case, since quarter after quarter of lists were missing, the violation was certainly repeated.

Finally, the licensee’s subjective opinion as to which violations are more serious than others carries no weight, or, as the FCC put it, “is unpersuasive.”

The fine stands at $10K and it has now graduated from a Notice of Apparent Liability to a Forfeiture Order.

Double O filed 5/14/12 to sell the station along with WWNU-FM Irmo SC to to Hometown Columbia LLC for $1.1M.