FCC Developments on Multiple Fronts

First the enforcement tidbits. Global Radio, the company which operated several unlicensed FM transmitters at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium during the 2003 Super Bowl, has had its $12,000 fine reduced to $10,800. Global was caught broadcasting on six frequencies during the game when it only had authorization to use two (although the FCC initially prosecuted it for running three of the four pirate stations).
The company angled for a cancellation of its fine based on a couple of interesting arguments. The first was that Global went pirate on extra channels “to experiment with the boundaries of Part 15” broadcasting. This makes little sense as FCC staff on hand for the game collected ample evidence that the unlicensed transmitters were indeed way over Part 15 power levels (which couldn’t have covered the entire stadium). The second argument was more traditional: a $12,000 fine would put the company in serious financial straits. Unfortunately, Global neglected to provide the requisite three years of tax returns to back up a claim of inability to pay the penalty.
Even so, since this was Global Radio’s first run-in with the FCC, the agency knocked 10% off the fine in what seems to be a gesture of good faith; a discount the FCC would never offer to an individual pirate.
Tidbit two: just last month FCC Enforcement Bureau chief David Solomon told a broadcast industry trade publication that efforts to silence pirate stations were a high priority and additional resources were being committed to policing the airwaves. Yet the Denver FCC office now claims that it’s exhausted its travel funds for the year and can no longer conduct any field activities unless there’s a life-threatening situation involved.
That should be good news for unlicensed broadcasters in the Rocky Mountain region, as the Denver FCC office is a District outpost – the second-largest of three tiers of agency field presence. However, it might be bad news for microbroadcasters in Denver: after a hairy run-in last month the folks behind Denver Free Radio successfully avoided an FCC stakeout and have reestablished broadcasts which reportedly cover a large part (if not all) of the metro area. Since Agent Jon Sprague and crew are now confined to quarters, as it were, perhaps they’ll pursue local cases with more vigor. Stay vigilant….
Finally: even though efforts to expand LPFM via legislation appear to be stymied for the year, broadcasters in New Jersey are trying another tactic to head off any new stations in their state regardless of what happens in Congress.
You may remember that members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation successfully got an amendment attached to S. 2505 that would exempt the state from any expansion of the LPFM service. Since the bill’s going nowhere, the New Jersey Broadcaster’s Association has filed a petition for rulemaking with the FCC asking it to ban new LPFMs in their state outright. Comments on RM-11099 are due by November 8, with reply comments due a month later (I can’t provide a direct link to the rulemaking itself as the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System is barfing up server errors to my queries).