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FCC Affirms a Test Pattern Does Not Preserve a Station License

WASHINGTON: Regulators this week reaffirmed a that running a test pattern is not sufficient to maintain a broadcast license. WYLE-TV in Florence, Ala., had its analog license and digital construction permit cancelled in March after being off the air since Feb. 8, 2007.

Federal law states that “if a broadcasting station fails to transmit broadcast signals for any consecutive 12-month period, then the station license granted for the operation of that broadcast station expires at the end of that period, notwithstanding any provision, term or condition of the license to the contrary.”

WYLE, an affiliate of Jewelry TV until around 2005, was owned by ETC Communications. ETC had financial difficulties with the station and tried to sell it after the CEO of the company died. While the station was silent, ETC entered into an agreement to sell it to WYLE-TV LLC (WTL) and received a $100,000 deposit. ETC asked to have the station license reinstated to complete the sale, but the FCC declined.

“ETC has not demonstrated natural disasters or other compelling circumstances which forced the station to cease operations,” the FCC order stated. “Instead, ETC made a business decision, based upon its stated ‘inability to finance the operations of WYLE,’ to take the station off the air in February 2007. ETC later determined not to resume broadcasting, despite having received a substantial non refundable deposit from WTL, the station’s prospective buyer, in July 2007.”

ETC protested that it briefly ran a test pattern on WYLE during the down period, and had therefore not been off the air for 12 consecutive months.

The FCC said precedent holds that “conducting equipment tests or transmitting an equipment test pattern does not prevent the automatic expiration of a license.”
-- Deborah D. McAdams