Phoenix fines have legs, er…wings


Phoenix Broadcasting Group stations KAMJ-FM Gosnell AR and KQDD-FM Osceola AR have each been hit with $9K fines (for a total of $18K) for prolonged failures to properly maintain their public files. The group tried to wriggle out of the fines, first arguing that they were not “willful” as charged by the FCC. As the FCC has explained many times, any type of error in following the regulations is considered willful, if only because the licensee has not willfully made sure it was doing things correctly.

The FCC again clarified what it means by “repeated” – the same file omission is repeated if it goes on for more than a day – in this case, the omissions spanned from 1999 to 2004. the most novel of Phoenix’s arguments, however, was that the fines should be withdrawn since it freely admitted its own transgression. Hitting them with a fine under these circumstances, Phoenix argued, is “contrary to public interest because it will discourage licensees from ‘com[ing] clean’ with the Commission.”

As the FCC has also stated many times in the past, there should be no expectation that candor will be rewarded – it is rather demanded and expected. Nonetheless, the FCC said it knocked $1K off each assessment in recognition of the group’s candor. But that’s as far as its going.

RBR/TVBR observation: Time after time we see stations protesting because they do not understand the FCC’s use of the word “willful.” They understand they broke a rule, but at the same time they know they didn’t do it on purpose, as the word seems to imply. We’re not lawyers, so we don’t know if there’s some arcane legal reason that word needs to be used when a fine is issued, but we’d be willing to bet that if the FCC just left it out they’d get far fewer appeals than they do currently.