The FCC Silent Treatment

For those volunteers aspiring to become hard core radio data junkies 😉 or highly paid communications law attorneys, it is useful to know the process for a radio station to not be on the air.

A few random things to know first
– other than daytime only AM stations, radio stations are required to stay on the air until 10 PM local time every day – except:
– Class D stations for schools are not expected to be on the air when school is not in session (like during summer or holiday breaks)
– Low Power FM stations have much lower requirements

If you turn off the power for an extended time (or the transmitter fails), you must notify the FCC within 10 days. If the station will be off the air more than 30 days, you must explain why and get permission. You get permission for 180 days – if you convince the FCC you really are trying, you may get another 180 days. Unless you make an extremely compelling case, after a year you lose the license.

Now the real world:
– the FCC is understaffed in the media division
– people rarely complain (or even notice) that a radio station goes away
– the FCC doesn’t have enough lawyers to push stations to comply

In the old days, if you didn’t convince the FCC you had a valid reason and were actively working to resolve the issue, you immediately lost the license – no shuck and jive games because your staff walked out because their paychecks bounced.

So the FCC publishes a list that I use to try to flag the growing number of silent stations
http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/silent-am-and-fm-broadcast-station-lists

This process can create confusion that I’m knee deep in trying to unravel. The page above explains this list is only updated once a month, and only lists stations that have already been silent two months – so it can be up to three months before a silent station shows up on the list. Most legitamite silent stations never get on ths list – you can replace a toppled antenna or burned out transmitter in a few days – IF you have the money.

If the STA “Silent Request” expires and the station neither notified the FCC it had resumed broadcasting, and didn’t request an extension, the station is in deep doo-doo. The station is looking at probably a $25,000 fine. When the station is up for renewal, the FCC wants an explanation and hard proof the station returned to the air, otherwise the license will be deleted. One such station in Pennsylvania very clearly tore down their antenna a long time ago and is trying to sell the license without a station. The FCC received a conplaint and is daring the owner to commit perjury to deny the facts and save the license.

There is growing evidence as AM stations get FM translators, they are deliberately hitting the Off button on the AM transmitter – because nobody cares.

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1 Response to The FCC Silent Treatment

  1. Art Stone says:

    Here is a fairly blatant abuse of this process

    http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/pubacc/prod/app_list.pl?Facility_id=64357

    Stations in Arizona had to submit their renewal applications by June 2013 for licenses set to expire in October 2013. The FCC has not approved the renewal, but also has not canceled the license.

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