Following a routine inspection in April 2010, the Enforcement Bureau’s Pennsylvania Field Office issued a Letter of Inquiry (“LOI”) regarding the contents of a Pennsylvania FM station’s public inspection file. According to a recently released Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”), all of the station’s issues/programs lists for the current license term, a total of 15 quarters, were unaccounted for in the station’s public inspection file at the time of the inspection. Section 73.3526(e)(12) of the FCC’s Rules requires broadcasters to place in their public inspection file each quarter a list of programs that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues. The base forfeiture for violations of Section 73.3526 is $10,000.

In its response to the LOI, the FM broadcaster admitted that the quarterly issues/programs lists were unavailable on the day of the inspection. The FM broadcaster indicated that it was evident “a person or persons had gone through the file and that some of the items had been removed” and was “committed” to bringing the station’s public inspection file into compliance.

Agents in the Pennsylvania Field Office returned to the station for a follow up inspection in February 2011. According to the NAL, the station’s public inspection file had not been updated as promised. The file contained a single issues/programs list covering the third quarter of 2010. Consequently, the public inspection file was missing a total of 17 quarters of issues/programs lists at the time of the second inspection. In response to a second LOI from the FCC, the FM broadcaster stated that the “missing lists had been moved to storage” and that “many of the files in storage were lost or damaged when part of the roof collapsed….” In response, the FCC increased the $10,000 base fine by an additional $5,000 (for a $15,000 total) due to the FM broadcaster’s “failure to correct the violation after the first inspection in 2010.”

In a similar case involving a Class A television station, a California broadcaster was fined $14,000 for failing to maintain all required materials in its public inspection file. During a station inspection in 2010, the Enforcement Bureau’s San Diego Field Office determined that the station’s public inspection file was missing a total of 34 quarters of issues/programs lists. Nine months later, the FCC issued an LOI requesting a list of the then-current contents of the station’s public inspection file. The resulting list from the broadcaster did not indicate that any issues/programs lists were in the file. Accordingly, the FCC issued an NAL seeking a $14,000 forfeiture, which included the base fine of $10,000 plus an upward adjustment of $4,000 for failure to correct the violation after the inspection.