If you’re running a college radio station it’s a good idea to beef up your understanding of FCC rules and deadlines. Recently Colby Community College radio station KTCC was schooled in the lesson that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to FCC license renewal.
Because they missed several deadlines for the renewal of their station’s license they have been accused of “failing to timely file a license renewal application and engaging in unauthorized operation of the Station.”
Here’s a tip for other stations: radio station license renewal applications are due FOUR MONTHS PRIOR to the expiration date on one’s FCC license.
Although the FCC levied a fine of $7,000 against the station back in 2007, KTCC sent letters appealing that decision on the grounds of both financial hardship and a misunderstanding of license renewal rules. Just this week the FCC responded that these excuses were not sufficient to reduce or eliminate the fine. According to the “Forfeiture Order” dated April 5, 2010 (PDF):
“As the Commission has held, however, violations resulting from inadvertent error or failure to become familiar with the FCC’s requirements are willful violations. In the context of a forfeiture action, ‘willful’ does not require a finding that the rule violation was intentional. Rather, the term ‘willful’ means that the violator knew that it was taking (or, in this case, not taking) the action in question, irrespective of any intent to violate the Rules.”
In this particular case, the radio station advisor (and radio broadcasting instructor!) Corey Sorenson argued that he was late in renewing the FCC license because he misunderstood the instructions and had inherited the job from a previous advisor who had kept insufficient records. According to the FCC’s Forfeiture Order:
“In his letter, Mr. Sorenson requests that the forfeiture be reconsidered in light of the situation he faced when he began his employment at the college. He states that he ‘was not given any training on what needed to be done with regard to FCC filing, as no one at the college knew what the processes or requirements were.’ Mr. Sorenson also states that he began the renewal process in January 2005 but ‘ran into some problems because there were no records for [Licensee’s] CORES password from the previous instructor.’ He adds that he ‘filled out the licensee renewal’ but ‘had misread the instructions and mistakenly thought [he] was finished.'”
This situation is unfortunate, but it illustrates the often tumultuous world of college radio, in which there may not be consistent staff members and advisors from year to year. Even if stations are in a state of disarray, someone needs to be responsible for FCC-related files and deadlines.
KTCC wasn’t alone in this recent round of forfeiture orders. High school station WLMH (at Little Miami High School in Ohio) was also fined $1500 for renewing late and some other non-student stations received fines as well. In the past we’ve seen this story played with Gaston College’s $8000 fine for public file violations and, most recently, University of Wisconsin-Parkside station WIPZ getting shut down for broadcasting without a license.
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