The FCC proposed a $10,000 fine against a South Carolina FM licensee for “willfully and repeatedly” failing to retain all required public inspection file documents.
Section 73.3526 of the FCC’s Rules requires each commercial broadcast station to maintain a public inspection file containing specific information related to station operations. Subsection 73.3526(e)(12) requires each radio station to place in its public file, on a quarterly basis, an Issues/Programs List that details programs that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding quarter. In addition, Section 73.2080 of the FCC’s Rules requires licensees to place in their public files annual equal employment opportunity (“EEO”) reports listing the licensee’s job vacancies and recruitment efforts.
The licensee conceded in its 2011 license renewal application that it failed to place all required public inspection file documentation in the station’s public inspection file. The licensee attached an exhibit to the application stating it did not timely place Issues/Program Lists in its public file for 18 quarters between 2004 and 2010. It further explained that eight of the Lists had since been recreated and placed in the file, but that ten could not be recreated. The licensee also stated that it had not timely placed annual EEO reports in its public file for the years 2005 and 2008.
Stating that the violations were “extensive” and lasted nearly the entire license term, the FCC graciously proposed to fine the licensee just $10,000—the base amount for a violation of the public inspection file rule. More importantly, the FCC stated that it would grant the station’s license renewal application after concluding the forfeiture proceeding so long as “there are no other issues . . . that would preclude grant of the application.”