A Massachusetts noncommercial broadcaster was assessed a $7000 forfeiture in connection with its late-filed license renewal application. Pursuant to Section 73.3539 of the FCC’s Rules, broadcasters must file their license renewal applications four months prior to the expiration of their operating authority. The station’s license was slated to expire on April 1, 2006. The broadcaster’s license renewal application, due December 1, 2005, was submitted fourteen months late, in February 2007. In the absence of a timely filed license renewal application, all operations after April 1, 2006 are considered unauthorized and in violation of the FCC’s Rules.
The FCC issued an NAL for a $7000 fine in November 2007. The noncommercial broadcaster sought cancellation or reduction of the fine based on its ignorance of the law. Specifically, the noncommercial broadcaster indicated that the station was run by a student organization and that the administrators were “completely unaware” of the license renewal deadline. The licensee’s response also indicated that it did not receive any notice of the application deadline or of the subsequent lapse of its license.
The FCC’s Order stated that violations of its rules caused by inadvertent error or lack of familiarity with the FCC’s requirements still constitute willful violations of its rules. The Order also stated that a licensee is obligated to seek renewal of its license regardless of whether it is notified that its current license is expiring. Accordingly, the FCC declined to reduce or cancel the $7,000 fine.