What's the FCC's Statute of Limitations Policy on Broadcast Fines? New Cases Give Some Clarification

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

When a problem arises with a station that could give rise to a fine, how long does the FCC have to act on that complaint and issue a fine? How long must a licensee worry about that problem and whether it will result in a fine? Does a sale cut off liability for a problem when the seller was the licensee? Two cases released yesterday, one resulting in a fine and the other where one was canceled, help explain the Commission's policy. The Communications Act says that the FCC cannot issue a fine (a "forfeiture" in FCC language) if the conduct occurred more than one year ago or before the beginning of the current license term, whichever is earlier. In these two cases, the FCC was faced with broadcasters who had problems in their last license renewal term - one filed its renewal late, and the other was missing Quarterly Issues Programs lists in its public file. In the first case, the FCC on the same day granted a license renewal and issued a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing to fine a station for the late-filed renewal.....

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