More Corporate Piracy: FCC Takes 9, Leaves 6

As June slips away I want to highlight a few other interesting FCC happenings that got crowded off the radar by the hoopla and its reverberations this month. The rest of the loose ends will follow later in the week.
First up is FCC administrative law judge Richard L. Sippel’s June 19 decision to revoke two licenses for FM stations owned by Peninsula Communications in Alaska. This case has been wending its way through the agency for several years and involves the company’s creation of a seven-station translator network, which it had been operating in violation of the FCC’s translator rules since 1994. A $140,000 fine (collection pending) and one federal court injunction later, Peninsula finally silenced the stations last August. The seven translators were fed by two full-power stations; in addition to those Peninsula also owns one AM station, one FM station, and an additional four FM translators.
As part of the ruling, Sippel was to decide whether Peninsula “has the requisite character qualifications to be a Commission licensee.” He decided the company should lose the licenses to all of the stations connected to the case, but after some interesting legal contortions he judged the principals fit enough to keep their other six stations.
One would think that a pirate’s a pirate: if the FCC can ban someone with a “proven” history of unlicensed broadcasting out of the running for LPFM licenses then it would make sense to apply the no-tolerance rule to everyone. Nine years of operating illegal translators – the last 15 months of which were technically unlicensed – is a pretty egregious violation.
This case, however, involved an entity already doing business with the FCC, not challenging its authority from the outset. Once you’re in business, egregious violations – like running seven pirate translators for money – will not result in a ban.
Nitpickers may find fault in my logic because the no-pirates ban only applies to the LPFM service. My beef is with the principle – no pirate has ever run seven stations, with the possible exception of Allan Weiner, and he’s a licensed broadcaster now, too.