The FCC proposed a $20,000 fine against a California noncommercial educational (“NCE”) TV station licensee for public inspection file and related violations.
Section 73.3527 of the FCC’s Rules requires NCE licensees to maintain a public inspection file containing specific types of information related to station operations, and subsection 73.3527(b)(2) requires NCE stations to upload most of that information to the FCC-hosted online public inspection file. Among the materials required to be in the file are a station’s Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, which must be retained until final FCC action on the station’s next license renewal application. Issues/Programs Lists detail programs that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding quarter. Section 73.3527 also requires stations to keep in their public file for two years from the date of broadcast a list of donors that have supported specific programs.
In addition, Section 73.3514(a) of the FCC’s Rules requires stations to include all information requested by an application form when filing it with the FCC. With respect to license renewal applications, this requires licensees to certify that they have complied with Section 73.3527’s public file requirements. Furthermore, Section 1.65(a) of the FCC’s Rules states that an “applicant is responsible for the continuing accuracy and completeness of information furnished in a pending application.”
In January 2014, the licensee filed its station license renewal application. Upon review of the station’s online public file, FCC staff found that the licensee had not uploaded copies of its donor lists for the entire prior license term, and Issues/Programs Lists from the first quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of 2016. The licensee uploaded the missing documents after being contacted by FCC staff.
In May 2016, FCC staff found that the station had failed to upload its most recent Issues/Programs and donor lists. FCC staff again called the licensee and directed it to upload the missing documents. Staff also requested that the licensee file an amendment to the pending license renewal application disclosing the public file violations. The licensee uploaded the requested documents in May 2016, and amended its application in June 2016, noting that all documents had been timely placed in the station’s physical public file.
The FCC subsequently found that the licensee failed to upload copies of the station’s Issues/Programs Lists for the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2016. The licensee had not updated its pending license renewal application to explain the repeated violations.
The FCC’s base fine for a public inspection file violation is $10,000, and the base fine for failing to provide required information in an application is $3,000. The FCC can adjust the amount upwards or downwards depending on the circumstances of the violation. Using this discretion, the FCC proposed to fine the station $14,000 for public file violations, $3,000 for failure to disclose the violations in its license renewal application until requested by FCC staff, and $3,000 for the station’s failure to maintain the accuracy of its license renewal application, for a total proposed fine of $20,000.