Last week, the FCC issued an Order and Consent Decree agreeing to end an investigation of a big operator of LPTV stations that had allegedly applied for new LPTV stations in a 2009 FCC filing window where applications were restricted to rural areas, obtained construction permits for those stations, and, through a series of minor change applications, moved a number of those stations to larger markets. The FCC stated that the licensee would temporarily construct a station and file an application for a license, and, when the license was granted, the station would go off the air. Then applications for minor changes to move these stations up to 30 miles away would be filed, when the process was repeated, allowing some stations to move hundreds of miles from where they were initially granted, to larger more urban communities where applications could not have been filed in the initial application window. The Commission noted that the applicant maintained permanent facilities for only about 50 of over three hundred authorizations received.

In connection with a sale of the licensee company, the FCC required that the licensee pay a penalty of $1,500,000 and forfeit about 30 licenses to settle the case finding that the certifications in license applications that stations were constructed in accordance with their construction permits was not accurate when these stations were not permanently constructed. The successive applications were also found to frustrate the limits on site moves and on the limitations imposed in the 2009 window. This holding is similar to one made in a radio case about which we wrote here where the Commission required permanent construction to meet construction deadlines. The Commission also has found that multiple or serial hops of an FM translator station to be an abuse of process where the station was never meant to be operated on any permanent basis at any of the intermediate sites (see our articles here and here). So, if you are building a station, build it permanently, and not as a means to moving it to some greener pasture 100 miles away.