Universal service violations, slamming, "junk faxes" and privacy violations typically draw large FCC fines. It may seem surprising, then, to learn that unauthorized transfers of control of FCC licenses draw a comparatively small forfeiture amount.

In this Notice of Apparent Liability released on Friday, the FCC proposed to fine Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. $16,000 for failing to obtain prior FCC approval before closing on a transaction that changed the control of Turner's FCC licensees. Yes, the transfer was a pro forma transfer of control, and resulted from a single transaction. But, the Bureau concluded that 49 licenses were transferred without authorization and Turner's violation remained uncorrected for two and one half years. Nevertheless, the total fine proposed is less than one-third the amount that the FCC has been assessing for a single failure to file a Form 499-Q. Personally, I think it is time to re-assess the comparative significance of the Commission's forfeitures.