LPFM fined $ 17,500 for serving ads
Competitor complained that the low-power station was broadcasting advertisements
Most of us have heard the occasional ad on a non-commercial educational radio station that may have blurred the lines between acknowledgment and commercial advertising. While most NCE broadcasters undoubtedly adhere to the FCC’s subscription announcement rules, some seem to believe that the limits are subject to interpretation.
Now an LPFM is paying a price for seemingly going over the line.
WAWL (LP), licensed to Tri-Cities Broadcasting Foundation in Grand Haven, Michigan, agreed to pay a fine for broadcasting commercial advertising intended for subscription purposes. WAWL operates under a non-commercial educational license. The FCC, in a consent decree, says the LPFM will pay a penalty of $ 17,500 and that its license would be renewed for a shorter term than usual to ensure continued compliance.
A petition to deny WAWL’s license renewal application has been filed by WGHN (FM), a competitor of Grand Haven. The commercial station submitted 24 examples of what it called commercials aired on the non-com educational LPFM. WGHN Inc. officials wrote, âThe content of these announcements appears to advertise rather than just identify the named sponsor.
Wendy Hart, vice-president of WGHN, wrote that the LPFM “airs spots, ostensibly recognizing donors, but whose content appears virtually identical to commercial advertisements.” The announcements he recorded were for a range of businesses, including funeral homes, restaurants and convenience stores.
WGHN also claimed that WAWL did not broadcast any educational programming, but the FCC denied WGHN’s claims on this point and refused to deny the license renewal.
“We negotiated the consent decree adopted here, in which the licensee admits to having violated the underwriting laws, agrees to pay a civil fine to the United States Treasury in the amount of $ 17,500 and agrees to adopt a compliance plan. to prevent further violations of underwriting laws, âthe commission staff wrote, adding that after reviewing the file, they believed it was best to only grant short-term renewal until in October 2024.
It seems that the broadcasters involved know each other well. Eric Kaelin, former CEO of WGHN, started WAWL in 2014, according to an article in the Grand Haven Tribune. Kaelin is currently president of the Tri-Cities Broadcasting Foundation.
For LPFMs who are wondering where the line is on this issue, the advisory group CER networks has the following advice on its website: âNon-commercial educational stations should not operate as a for-profit business. This means that NCE stations are unable to broadcast advertisements promoting a business that may have donated (or subscribed to) the station. While NCE stations are unable to broadcast advertisements, they are permitted to identify for-profit companies that support the station by announcing their name, contact details, and even a non-promotional description of the company.