FCC Proposes $144K Fine Against Unlicensed Low-Power TV Station in KY

The Federal Communications Commission today proposed a $144,344 fine against Vearl Pennington and Michael Williamson for operating an unlicensed low-power television station in Morehead, Kentucky. An FCC investigation found that these individuals continued to operate well after the FCC license for their station was cancelled following failure to file a renewal. The proposed fine is the maximum allowed for ongoing violations of the Communications Act, justified by the individuals’ continued operation of the station for years despite repeated warnings that they were in violation of the law.

Federal law prohibits the operation of a broadcast television station without a license issued by the Commission. Congress enacted this requirement as a means of ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of scarce spectrum resources among entities, such as TV and radio broadcasters, public safety agencies, and wireless phone and data networks. Unlicensed, or “pirate,” broadcasts can cause interference to licensed uses, such as potentially preventing the public from viewing or hearing important public safety warnings.

In 1990, Mr. Pennington was granted an FCC license to operate low-power television station DW10BM in Morehead, Kentucky. Mr. Pennington renewed the station’s license in 1993 but failed to do so again in 1998. In 2004, the FCC’s Media Bureau wrote to Mr. Pennington to
inquire if he had submitted a renewal request in 1998. Receiving no response, the Bureau canceled the license for DW10BM in 2004. Mr. Pennington, joined by Mr. Williamson, continued to operate the station despite their lack of FCC-issued license.

After an unrelated FCC filing by another entity referenced the continued operation of DW10BM, the FCC’s Media Bureau informed the Enforcement Bureau, which investigated through its Atlanta Field Office and found that the unlicensed station was indeed operating on channel 10 in Morehead.

Read more: http://fcc.us/2qEFpa9