The FCC Is Serious About The Public File. Just Ask Cumulus


Five Cumulus stations, all in South Carolina, are fined for similar reasons. They failed to keep their public files up to date, and got caught when applying for a license renewal. Stations must certify that all of the required information is in the Public File when filing for a license renewal.

Here are the five stations caught by The FCC, the amount they were fined and a link to the FCC Notice of Apparent Liability.

WDAI-FM in Pawleys Island, South Carolina – $12,000
WSEA-FM in Atlantic Beach, South Carolina – $12,000
WSYN-FM in Surfside Beach, South Carolina – $12,000
WRWM-AM in Conway, South Carolina – $12,000
WLFF-FM in Georgetown, South Carolina – $10,000

Let’s take a look at the specific details from one station, WDAI-FM in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, which was hit with a $12,000 fine for failing to file quarterly issues/programs lists for several years.

At least 21 lists were missing from Q4 in 2003 through Q1 2007, Q1 2008, Q4 2009, and two quarters in 2010. The station admitted its errors during a license renewal application. WDAI answered “No” to that certification question which triggered an FCC investigation.

Here are the reasons why WDAI said the documents were missing.

The station told the Commission that due to so many personnel changes, at all levels of management and staff, there is no one employed currently at the station, or available to the station, who has knowledge of the reports prepared prior to 2008. In addition, due to changes in software and computer systems prior to 2008, the station has been unable to locate any documentation regarding the programming carried during those years that dealt with issues of local concern.

Missing reports for the years 2008, 2009, and 2010 have been recreated and the file is complete from Q2 2007 to date.

So will the WDAI-FM license be renewed by the Commission? Yes it will, but with a warning. Despite the Public File mistake, the Commission found that the station has served the public interest, there have been no serious violations, and there have been no other violations which, taken together, constitute a pattern of abuse. However, the Commission says if the station fails to meet that standard, the Commission may deny the application, after a hearing: “Although we are concerned with Licensee’s failure to create and retain quarterly issues/programs lists, we find that Licensee’s violations of the Rules do not rise to such a level that designation for evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether to deny renewal for the Station is warranted.”

Here’s more from the FCC’s NAL (which you can read HERE). “It is clear to us that Licensee’s conduct has fallen far short of the standard of compliance with the Act and the Rules that would warrant a routine license renewal. Licensee apparently failed to timely prepare and file 21 issues/programs lists for most of the license period. The issues/programs lists are a significant and representative indication that a licensee is providing substantial service to meet the needs and interests of its community. The Commission’s public information file rule also safeguards the public’s ability to assess the station’s service and to meaningfully participate in the station’s renewal process, and ensure the station’s accessibility to and nexus with its community, to serve and respond to community programming needs. As such, the public information requirements are integral components of a licensee’s obligation to serve the public interest and meet its community service obligations.”


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