FCC Proposes Maximum Fine Against Unlicensed LPTV

The FCC has proposed levying the maximum fine against a pair of low-power TV station owners for operating without a license.

The $144,344 fine is against the owners of a low-power station in Morehead, Ky. The FCC commissioners voted unanimously to propose the fine, which the station can appeal before it becomes official.

The station failed to renew the license starting in 1998, and it was canceled in 2004.

The station continued to operate even after the FCC's Atlanta field office investigated, talked with the owners, and said it had told them to "cease operation, warned of possible enforcement actions, and issued an on-scene Notice of Unlicensed Radio Operation."

In a separate statement on the decision, commissioner Michael O'Rielly suggested license scofflaws should now be on notice.

"This case highlights how toothless the Commission’s approach to broadcast pirates had become under past leadership," he said. "How could anyone get away with operating a pirate TV station for almost twenty years?  No longer a fierce watchdog, the Commission had been reduced to a sometimes annoying, sometimes sleepy, but ultimately harmless Chihuahua when it came to protecting broadcast spectrum licenses.  But all pirate operators should be put on notice that we can and we will turn that situation around."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.