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FCC Reverses $7,000 Order Against Former WAMF Owner

FULTON — The Federal Communications Commission today released a ruling made on Friday, that it would cancel a $7,000 “forfeiture” it had levied in 2007 against Fulton station WAMF 1300 for licensing violations. The reason given by the FCC: it “has since learned” of then-owner Don DeRosa’s passing, which happened three months ago.

In the ruling released today (view in PDF format), the FCC stated:

On October 30, 2007, the Bureau issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”) in the amount of seven thousand dollars ($7,000) to Mr. De Rosa for willfully violating Section 73.3539 of the Rules and willfully and repeatedly violating Section 301 of the Act. The Bureau has since learned that Mr. De Rosa passed away. Because Mr. De Rosa is no longer living, we cancel the NAL.

In the notice, the Commission also referenced the fact that DeRosa had sold the station to Cram Communications in November 2007, just a few weeks after the NAL was issued.

You may recall DeRosa lost his battle with cancer in June, just hours after friends and family gathered for a benefit to help cover DeRosa’s medical expenses.

How it Began

The $7,000 NAL (which we’ll note, is not officially a “fine” per se) was issued to DeRosa in October 2007, because the FCC said DeRosa had failed to comply with deadlines for renewing his broadcast license.  Renewals are due at least four months prior to the existing license’s expiration date.  The FCC also says DeRosa continued to operate WAMF for periods during which the license had expired.

According to the 2007 ruling (view in PDF format), DeRosa should have filed for renewal by February 1, 2006, as the license in question expired on June 1, 2006. But DeRosa didn’t file a renewal application until October 26. Four days later, he filed a request for “special temporary authorization” to continue broadcasting while waiting for the renewal. That STA was granted, then expired on May 7, 2007. Four days later, DeRosa filed for another STA, which was not granted until October 26, 2007. In the STA request, DeRosa stated he “inadvertently” missed the original license renewal deadline.

The FCC explains that missing the deadline apply for broadcast license renewal typically results in a penalty of $3,000.

Additionally, broadcasting without a license — as WAMF had done between the day the license expired (6/1/06) and the day the first STA was granted, and for the four days between the two STAs — can generally result in a forfeiture amount of $10,000.

However, the FCC says a number of factors helped reduce that down to $4,000, resulting in the $7,000 total. Among the factors cited, the fact that WAMF was previously licensed (as opposed to being a pirate station) and the fact WAMF had complied with other regulations in regards to serving the public interest, convenience and necessity.

(We’ll also note that DeRosa had filed paperwork on 11/25/06 stating WAMF was silent from 3/31/06 to 11/25/06, which would seem to counter the FCC’s claim that WAMF had operated without a license from June to November.)

In the end, the FCC said WAMF’s otherwise-clean record not only helped reduce the NAL amount, but weighed in the Commission’s decision to approve WAMF’s full broadcast license renewal, on the same date the NAL was issued.

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