Small business status fails to help licensee duck fine


Sudbury Services Inc., licensee of KLCN-AM in Blytheville AR, was hit by the FCC with a $9K public file fine for omissions occurring between 1999 and 2003. In its continued effort to wriggle out of the fine, SSI tried a few of its old arguments again, and added a new one tied to a small business law enacted in 1996.

The problem involved missing issues/programs lists in the public file which turned up during the license renewal process. According to the FCC, the missing lists would have referred to: in 1999, the first and third quarters; in 2000, the first three quarters; in 2001, quarters two and four; in 2002, quarters two and four; and in 2003, the first and second quarters.

On 12/10/04 the FCC issued a notice of apparent liability for $9K, and SSI began its appeals shortly thereafter on 1/7/05.

For the most part, the FCC brushed aside SSI’s latest attempt on grounds that the arguments were repetitive and that SSI brought no now evidence to the table supporting its claim.

The new and to us novel argument was that in refusing to reduce or cancel the fine, the FCC was in violation of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1996. SSI argued that under SBREFA, “until the Commission adopts a policy or program for reducing or waiving civil penalties for violations by small entities, the Commission lacks the legal authority to impose penalties on small entities, such as Sudbury.”

The FCC brushed this argument aside, saying it does have procedures in place to reduce fines on smaller entities based on “specified downward adjustment factors.” It said it was expressly mindful of SBREFA when it set the policy up. And it said that the fine stands.