Pursuant to the FCC's rules, not broadcasting for 12 consecutive months will result in the automatic expiration of a station's license. To avoid losing a license under this statutory provision, a broadcaster will typically resurrect a silent station for a short period in order to reset the clock so that the station can fall silent again. Such was the case with WYLE(TV), Florence, Alabama. WYLE's licensee took the station off the air on February 8, 2007, and brought it back online for a 24-hour period on February 3, 2008, in order to prevent the automatic expiration of the station's license. During the 24-hours on the air, WYLE broadcast a test pattern.
Last month, the Media Bureau decided that WYLE's test pattern did not constitute "transmit[ting] broadcast signals" in a manner that would prevent the station from forfeiting its license under Section 312(g) of the Communications Act. In addition to noting that the Communications Act defines "broadcasting" as the "dissemination of radio communications intended to be received by the public," the Bureau pointed to existing precedent establishing that transmission of test patterns will not prevent automatic termination of a station's license under Section 312(g).
Silent television stations—especially those that are nearing 12 consecutive months of silence—should take note of the WYLE decision as they make plans to return to the air.
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