Alaska radio station fined more than $60K for violating broadcast rules

Published: Jul. 19, 2017 at 12:56 PM AKDT
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A radio station based in Seward, Alaska is facing fines in the tens of thousands of dollars for a long list of violations, including "undermining" the Emergency Alert System.

In a news release published on Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission, better known as the FCC, said it has issued a proposed fine to the tune of $66,000 against an FM station, Kenai Educational Media.

The station, which uses the call sign KIBH-FM, is accused of "numerous apparent violations of FCC rules," according to the statement released by the FCC. KIBH management says these alleged violations date back nearly five years and have more or less been fixed.

Violations presented in the FCC's statement include the following:

  • Programmed the Emergency Alert System (EAS) equipment messages for a radio station serving a different geographic area than that served by Kenai
  • Failing to monitor at least two EAS sources
  • Did not keep EAS operation information available to staff as required
  • Did not maintain required records
  • Failed to respond to several FCC inquiries

These violations, especially those pertaining to the EAS, are taken very seriously by the FCC. In its statement, the FCC said that broadcasters have "very important obligations related to EAS, a critical system for ensuring the public can receive accurate and expedient alerts and warnings during times of local and national emergencies."

"Most licensees take this responsibility seriously and serve their communities as key outlets for emergency warnings and alerts, a broadcaster’s failure to meet these FCC requirements is a serious offense which can pose real dangers for their communities," the FCC wrote in the prepared statement.

Wolfgang Kurtz, the general manager of KIBH, said that the initial inspection dates back to June of 2013, when the FCC agent visited the station. Kurtz said the station has undergone multiple changes of ownership both during that time and since the investigation, and many of the infractions had gotten "lost in the shuffle" during the transitional periods between management.

Although the FCC said that KIBH was informed of their violations several times, it claims that KIBH failed to respond several times to FCC inquiries. An agent in the FCC's Anchorage office originally discovered the violations.

From here, KIBH will see the fine imposed formally with a notice for liability for forfeiture, meaning in addition to the fine, the license afforded to the station will be at risk if they continue to display inaction. The FCC said that KIBH has 30 days to respond.

Kurtz said the next step for the station is to respond, formally in writing to the FCC, explaining the circumstances of the situation. "We're going to respond. The response isn't timely and should have been done before now, but most of the problems addressed in the NAL have long since been rectified."

The two main issues KIBH now faces are whether or not its license to broadcast will be revoked, and if it will need to pay the more than $60,000 fine. "The revocation is something separate," Kurtz said. "But the fines, in most cases, are reduced."