In 2007, a New Hampshire student-run FM station was assessed a $10,000 forfeiture in connection with a public inspection file disclosure made in its 2005 license renewal application. The disclosure indicated that the station’s public inspection file was missing 12 quarterly issues-programming lists for 2000, 2001 and 2002 and that the licensee had “reconstructed from station logs” the quarterly reports for the first two quarters in 2005. The 2007 NAL stated that the violations of Section 73.3527 of the Commission’s Rules, admitted in the context of a required disclosure, were “extensive, occurring over a three-year period and involved at least 14 missing issues-programs lists.”
The recently released Forfeiture Order states that the noncommercial licensee submitted a response to the 2007 NAL seeking a reduction or cancellation of the $10,000 fine based on the fact that “(1) the Station serves an educational and community-related purpose; (2) the student-run nature of the Station warrants a measure of leniency when assessing the penalty; and (3) it will take steps to prevent future violations by designating a non-student supervisor to oversee its public file.”
The FCC’s Order summarily dismissed the request, stating that it is “established Commission policy that there is no proposed forfeiture exemption or reduction based on the noncommercial status of a station.” “Where lapses occur, neither the negligent acts or omissions of a station’s personnel or agents, nor the subsequent remedial actions undertaken by the licensee, excuse a Rule violation.” The Order also noted that FCC enforcement actions consistently state that violations of FCC rules caused by inadvertent error or lack of familiarity with the FCC’s requirements still constitute willful violations of its rules. The FCC therefore declined to cancel or reduce the original $10,000 forfeiture. This case provides a stern reminder that disclosure of a rule violation in the context of completing a mandatory form or report is not considered “voluntary” for purposes of mitigating any resulting fines.