FCC Fines Texas TV Group $86,400 for Unauthorized BAS

WASHINGTON—A Texas station group is facing an $86,400 fine for allegedly operating unauthorized broadcast auxiliary services. The Federal Communications Commission levied the fine against Midessa Television, a limited partnership of Drewry Communications, which is based in Lawton, Okla. Midessa stations in Texas include KWES-TV and KTLE-LP in Odessa, KWAB-TV in Big Spring and KTLD-LP in Midland.

“We propose a penalty of $86,400 against Midessa Television Limited Partnership… for apparently operating three BAS stations without authorizations, and operating an additional six BAS stations at variance with their respective authorizations, all in conjunction with its full-power and low-power television stations,” the FCC Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture states. “Midessa’s apparent violations continued for a number of years, including for a substantial time after it became aware of its unauthorized operations, thus warranting a significantly increased penalty.”

According to the document, Midessa submitted applications for three new as-built stations and six modified stations in April of2013. Midessa disclosed the unauthorized operations in the application. An investigation ensued. Midessa said it discovered the unauthorized operations in May of 2012 during an audit of BAS facilities.

“Midessa stated that, even after interviewing former station staff, it could not identify the exact dates the violations occurred, but that they probably were ongoing at various times for at least four years,” the Notice said. “Further, Midessa stated that it could not rule out the possibility that some of the stations were noncompliant at the times of their acquisitions in 1991 and 2001.”

Despite this, Midessa continued operating the BAS stations in violation of FCC rules until April, 2013, when it submitted its applications. Further, the FCC said, Midessa conceded that the stations may have been out of compliance for as long as 22 years. The commission viewed this as “willful” and “repeated” violations.

The base fine for unauthorized station operation is $10,000 and $4,000 for unauthorized emissions, using an unauthorized frequency and construction or operation at an unauthorized location. The commission determined the base forfeiture in this case to be $54,000—$30,000 for the three unauthorized BAS stations, and $24,000 for those operating at variance.

Midessa argued that the base forfeiture for the first three should be $4,000 since the BAS operations in question were associated with full-power TV station licenses and should be treated as BAS studio transmitter links. The commission declined.

“We also conclude that an upward adjustment of $32,400 is warranted for the extended duration of the violations,” the commission said.