Pittsfield public school station earns fine reduction


WTBR-FM Pittsfield MA, licensed to the Pittsfield Public School Committee, was one of those stations that not only filed late for its license renewal – the application is supposed to be in four months prior to license expiration – it hadn’t filed after expiration and thus was an unauthorized operator.

The station was supposed to get its renewal application in 12/1/05, ahead of its 4/1/06 expiration date. It finally got it in on 4/18/06. It was hit with a $7K fine, $3K for being late and $4K for unauthorized operation.

The licensee argued that it was not liable for the unauthorized operation fine because it stopped broadcasting 4/1/06, and did not resume broadcast until it sent in its application on 4/18/06. The FCC shot down that argument, noting that applying is not the same as receiving approval, and approval did not come until 10/17/07.

The licensee further asked for a reduction on the $3K portion based on inability to pay, and supported this with a declaration from the station’s student advisor and operating manager. He did so in the form of an operating budget, which the FCC does not accept. It wants tax returns of the licensee, or some other argument that uses “generally accepted accounting procedures.”

Pittsfield was granted a $1.4K discount for its record of prior compliance, and was told it owes $5.6K.

RBR-TVBR observation: Here we have a school-run station probably operating on a shoestring budget. And anybody who has been sentient over the past few economically-challenged years knows that most schools and the states that largely fund them are facing daunting budget crunches.

Since the FCC is currently knocking on the door of the Supreme Court arguing that it has a duty to protect our children, why can’t it make an exception in the case of an inadvertent rule violation and let this school use its limited cash resources on the children, rather than to fund FCC operations or take an atom-sized bite out of the national debt?

This is a station with a clean record, and we sincerely doubt that it was out to flaunt the rules or put one over on the feds. We’d note that the ultimate victims of this fine will be students who had nothing to do with the failure to file paperwork on time. Under the circumstances, we believe most Americans would support letting the Pittsfield Public School Committee off with a stern admonishment.

Just saying…