FCC May Fine DirecTV for Moving Satellite Without Authorization

An FCC News Release said the FCC was proposing to fine DirecTV $87,500 for repositioning the DirecTV 3 satellite without FCC authorization. In the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, the FCC said that DirecTV "readily acknowledges that its personnel began repositioning the satellite one day after DirecTV applied for the STA request to relocate DirecTV 3 without Commission approval of that modification."

The FCC said DirecTV sent commands to reposition the satellite on Sept. 3, 2003 and finally positioned the satellite at 82 degrees West Longitude on or about Oct. 15, 2003. In late September, the FCC staff asked if the drift of the satellite was authorized. DirecTV met with the International Bureau (IB) on Oct. 2, 2003 to describe the events leading to the relocation of the satellite. The Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) said, "On October 3, 2003, DirecTV requested an STA to 'execute an additional maneuver to stop the westward movement of the satellite to mitigate any risk of collision with other operational satellites. IB orally granted this limited STA request on October 3, 2003.' In a letter to IB dated October 9, 2003, DirecTV acknowledged that its movement of the DirecTV 3 satellite on September 4, 2003, was not authorized by the Commission and indeed was the very purpose of the pending STA."

The NAL stated, "DirecTV explained that an initial ambiguous communication from a DirecTV Senior Vice President, Communications Systems, to a subordinate, though 'intended to begin planning the process of relocating the satellite,' resulted in a relocation 'prior to the grant of the STA request.' DirecTV also stated that on or about September 12, 2003, when the Senior Vice President became aware of the movement of DirecTV 3, 'he erred and mistakenly did not attribute significance to the event since the satellite remained in a storage orbit with the communications payload turned off,' thus judging that DirecTV 3 would not pose a risk to other satellites. DirecTV further asserted that it has developed a formal policy that will ensure that any future proposed satellite relocations to other orbital positions are vetted and monitored by the DirecTV General Counsel to ensure compliance with the Commission Rules."

The International Bureau sent the case to the Enforcement Bureau for enforcement action. The NAL states, "In light of DirecTV's apparent willful and repeated violation of Section 25.117(a) of the Rules, we find that a forfeiture is warranted. We believe that the factors cited above justify the maximum proposed forfeiture. Further, while we find DirecTV's efforts to ensure compliance with the provisions of Section 25.117(a) of our Rules in the future commendable, such a post-remedial measure does not lessen, mitigate, or excuse its past violation. Considering all of the enumerated factors and the particular circumstances of this case, we conclude that DirecTV is apparently liable for a forfeiture in the amount of the statutory maximum of $87,500 for its apparent willful and repeated violation of Section 25.117(a) of the Rules."

For more information, refer to the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture.