A Texas TV licensee is facing a $20,000 fine for failing to timely file sixteen Children’s Television Programming Reports.
Section 73.3526 of the FCC’s Rules requires each commercial broadcast licensee to maintain a public inspection file containing specific information related to station operations. Subsection 73.3526(e)(11)(iii) requires a commercial licensee to prepare and place in its public inspection file a Children’s Television Programming Report for each calendar quarter. The report sets forth the efforts the station made during that quarter and has planned for the next quarter to serve the educational and informational needs of children. Licensees are required to file the reports with the FCC and place them in their public files by the tenth day of the month following the quarter.
In addition, Section 73.3514(a) of the FCC’s Rules requires licensees to include all information requested by an application form when filing it with the FCC. The license renewal application form requires licensees to certify that they have complied with Section 73.3526 and have timely filed their Children’s Television Programming Reports with the FCC.
In April 2014, the licensee filed its license renewal application. While it did not report the violations on the application, an FCC review of the station’s online public inspection file revealed that the station did not file its Children’s Television Programming Reports in a timely manner for sixteen straight quarters, between the third quarter of 2006 and the second quarter of 2010. All of the untimely reports were eventually uploaded at the same time to the station’s electronic public inspection file in February 2013.
The licensee acknowledged the late reports, but said that a severe illness that overcame the officer in charge of filing the reports was to blame. It explained that, when the officer went ill, he delegated the filing to a subordinate. Upon his return, the officer incorrectly assumed that the person to whom he delegated the work would continue the filing. In response, the FCC said that it was “sympathetic” to the officer’s illness, but that the responsibility to file the reports ultimately lies with the licensee.
The FCC’s base fine for failing to file a required form or information is $3,000, although it can adjust the amount upwards or downwards in response to factors such as the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation. Using this discretion, the FCC proposed to fine the licensee $17,000 for its failure to file the sixteen Children’s Television Programming Reports in a timely manner, and another $3,000 for the failure to report the violations on its license renewal application, for a total proposed fine of $20,000.