FCC Yanks Station License

The FCC has ruled that a 24-hour test pattern does not a TV station make.

ETC Communications will not get to transfer the license of WYLE(TV) Florence, Alabama, or have more time to build out a digital factility. That's because the FCC has yanked that license, as well as a construction permit to build an unconstructed digital station.

ETC had taken the station off the air in February 2007 because it could not afford to operate it, said the FCC, then entered into a purchase agreement with WYLE TV LLC (WTL). But because the latter also owned WHDF(TV) Florence, they needed a waiver of FCC ownership rules which prohibit duopolies in markets where fewer than eight independently owned TV's would remain after the sale.

The FCC requires that if any station remains dark for 12 consecutive months, then the license will expire at the end of that 12 months no matter what. To prevent that from happening, ETC informed the FCC that on Feb 3, 2008, it had put the station back on the air for 24 hours before going dark again.

When the FCC asked what it had programmed during that time, ETC responded that it had been a test pattern for the entire duration.

The FCC's Media Bureau concluded that "was insufficient to exempt ETC from automatic expiration of the station’s license," and Thursday cancelled the license, the construction permit and delieted the WYLE call signs. Given that, ETC's request for additional time for the DTV buildout, and to sell the station, were moot.

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.