Not all FCC fines are created equal, and that is especially true when it comes to stations getting nailed for failing to get a license renewal in on time or for forgetting about it entirely. There are several factors that go into what the FCC might charge, as is illustrated by contrasting cases in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
We’ll first look at the case of WWLU-FM, licensed to Lincoln University PA, home of license-holder Lincoln University, in southeast Pennsylvania not far from the town of Oxford and the state’s borders with both Delaware and Maryland.
A license renewal application is due four months prior to expiration, and WWLU should have had its app in on 4/1/06 in advance its scheduled 8/1/06 expiration. It failed to do that, but it did get it in before August, on 6/27/06, with no explanation for the late submission.
The FCC generally grants leniency to stations that are late but get the application in during before the license sunsets. And in the case of WWLU, a Class D station operating with only 3 Watts of power, as well as for other low powered facilities, the FCC has often reduced fines; thus, a failure to follow the regs that could have cost up to $13K all told only will cost the station $250.
The story for Hope Broadcasting’s WFGN-AM Gaffney SC is a little different. It’s license expired 12/1/03, requiring an application for renewal received by the FCC no later than 8/1/03. At no point was an application filed, but the station went on until the FCC notified it on 5/10/11 that it had no licenses and essentially no longer existed.
The station was able to get an STA to continue operating shortly thereafter and is getting a new license. But a license is to be renewed every seven years, and the failure to file a required for is $3K. So WFGN is charged $3K for not filing in 2003, and failing again in 2010. The possible $10K fine for operating without a license, the amount usually levied on pirate stations, was reduced to $4K since the operation was inadvertent rather than mischievous. The total bill comes to $10K. And since the day-timer is nevertheless a full power commercially-operated station, there is no secondary service discount such as the one granted to WWLU.