Wednesday, December 21, 2011

FCC fines

I'm not complaining. I've said repeatedly that the FCC is probably our most high-functioning federal agency. That doesn't mean the system is perfect. Their seasonal obsessiveness with fleeting expletives keeps them in the press, btu the day to day forfeitures are pretty pedestrian. Fines happen, and they can be big. But how big and for what? In  forfeiture proceedings, the FCC can fine any person or corporation under the five rules below. You can read all the gory details of 47 C.F.R. § 1.80(b)(4) here.

(1) Willfully or repeatedly failed to comply substantially with the
   terms and conditions of any license, permit, certificate, or other
   instrument of authorization issued by the Commission;

   (2) Willfully or repeatedly failed to comply with any of the provisions
   of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended; or of any rule,
   regulation or order issued by the Commission under that Act or under
   any treaty, convention, or other agreement to which the United States
   is a party and which is binding on the United States;

   (3) Violated any provision of section 317(c) or 508(a) of the
   Communications Act;

   (4) Violated any provision of section 227(e) of the Communications Act
   or of the rules issued by the Commission under section 227(e) of that
   Act; or

   (5) Violated any provision of section 1304, 1343, or 1464 of Title 18,
   United States Code.


You can look up anything on the FCC website you might want.  But what we see mostly are violations of Section 503. You can get them emailed you you daily with their broadcast actions if you want to keep up on who's getting the heat. Section 503 fines are as follows:

Forfeitures                                                                  Violation Amount

Misrepresentation/lack of candor                               $37,500

Construction without authorization                              $10,000

Failure to comply with prescribed lighting/marking      $10,000

Violation of public file rules                                        $10,000

Violation of political rules:                                          $9,000

Unauthorized substantial transfer of control                $8,000

Violation of children's television requirements             $8,000

Violations distress and safety frequencies rules           $8,000

False distress communications                                   $8,000


EAS equipment not installed or operational                $8,000

Alien ownership violation                                           $8,000

Failure to permit inspection                                        $7,000

Transmission of indecent/obscene materials                $7,000

Interference                                                               $7,000

Importation or marketing of unauthorized equipment   $7,000

Exceeding of authorized antenna height                       $5,000

Fraud by wire, radio or television                               $5,000

Unauthorized discontinuance of service                       $5,000

Use of unauthorized equipment                                   $5,000

Exceeding power limits                                               $4,000

Failure to respond to FCC communications                $4,000

Violation of sponsorship ID requirements                   $4,000

Unauthorized emissions                                             $4,000

Using unauthorized frequency                                    $4,000

Failure to engage in required frequency coordination  $4,000

Construction or operation at unauthorized location     $4,000

Unfair/illegal lotteries or contests                                $4,000

Transmitter control and metering violations                 $3,000

Failure to file required forms or information                 $3,000

Failure to make required measurements or monitoring $2,000

Failure to provide station ID                                      $1,000

Unauthorized pro forma transfer of control                 $1,000

Failure to maintain required records                           $1,000


Then there are a set of criteria for adjustments to those penalties. Some will increase your liability and others diminish it. Plausible deniability isn't worth much here, but good faith and compliance certainly are.

Upward Adjustment Criteria

  1. Egregious misconduct
  2. Ability to pay/relative disincentive
  3. Intentional violation
  4. Substantial harm
  5. Prior violations of any FCC requirements
  6. Substantial economic gain
  7. Repeated or continuous violation

Downward Adjustment Criteria

  1. Minor violation
  2. Good faith or voluntary disclosure
  3. History of overall compliance
  4. Inability to pay.