The next license renewal cycle will begin April 1, 2003, with
preparations for license renewals for stations in the District of
Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. (The deadline for
filing DC/MD/VA/WV renewal applications is actually June 1, but the
pre-filing preparations, including the broadcast of pre-filing
announcements, cranks up two months before.)
Now is the time to begin making preparations for the renewal
process. While the Commission has streamlined license renewals over
past years, these changes focus more attention on the regulations that
are left. Further, while the yes/no questions about matters such as the
public file and quarterly issues/programs lists appear routine, care
must be taken that the answers given are correct.
Accordingly, at this time, station managers should check their
stations' local public inspection files to make sure that they are
complete and up-to-date. Ensure that basic documents such as licenses,
ownership reports and information as to signal contours are in the
public file. Be particularly aware of record-keeping requirements
relating to political broadcasting.
Another related matter is the quarterly issues/programs lists that
each radio station must prepare and place in the public inspection file
each April 10, July 10, October 10 and January 10. Those reports should
list at least five issues of importance in the community and provide a
description of the programs aired by the station regarding those
issues. The information in the report should include the title, time,
date, duration and a brief description of each issue-responsive
The renewal application form will request information about
compliance with these requirements. Stations not able to respond
affirmatively will face further inquiries from the FCC.
Phone call equals fine
As a general rule, most broadcasters operate under the assumption
that callers to the studio realize their call may be broadcast.
However, that assumption may not always be valid, and a mistake can
result in a fine as in the recent case of an FM station. A caller to
the studio believed that she was calling the father of an acquaintance.
The on-air personality thought the call was a prank and played along.
The conversation was taped and rebroadcast. The caller complained to
In response, the licensee claimed that its announcer told the caller
twice that she had reached a radio station, but it is not clear exactly
how or when in the conversation the announcer made that disclosure.
The FCC fined the station $4,000 for violating Section 73.1206 of
the rules, which prohibits the recording and broadcast of telephone
conversations without the caller's consent. The licensee argued that
this situation fell within the exception, explicitly included in the
rule, which permits such taping and broadcast when the caller may be
presumed to have consented. According to the rule, such consent may be
presumed when the caller originates the call and “it is obvious
that [the call] is in connection with a program in which the station
customarily broadcasts telephone conversations.”
FM license revocation
The FCC is seeking to revoke four FM broadcast licenses and several
associated translator licenses held by a broadcaster who refused to
obey FCC orders.
The broadcaster operates translator stations that apparently do not
qualify as “fill-in” facilities because they are outside
the main stations' 1mV/m contours. The Commission refused to grant
renewals for the translators unless the licensee sold them to an
unrelated entity in order to bring them into compliance. The licensee
did file for approval of such assignments, and approvals were granted,
but the licensee did not consummate the transfers. The Commission then
declared that, because the renewals had been conditioned on sale of the
stations, and because the sale had not occurred, the licenses were
deemed to have expired.
The FCC now has fined the broadcaster $140,000 for illegally
operating the translators. Based on the licensee's continuing disregard
for the rules, all four full-service and (even the remaining and
legitimate) translator licenses were set for a revocation hearing.
Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC.,
Arlington, VA. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quarterly issues/programs lists must be placed in stations' public
files on April 10 and again on July 10.
The deadline for filing comments on the FCC's newly-proposed EEO
rules was extended to April 15.