Los Angeles PBS Station Fined by FCC

The website Television Broadcast reported on February 8th that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has fined the local Los Angeles Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) station $100,000 for violating a rule requiring the station to make available their public file. From the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture:

TV Station KCET, Los Angeles, California ("Community Television"), apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Section 73.3527(c) of the Commission's rules ("Rules") by failing to make available the State KCET public inspection file. We conclude that Community Television is apparently liable for a forfeiture in the amount of ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

The fine came after an FCC agent, on two separate occasions, visited KCET's studio, without identifying himself as such, and requested to view the station's public file. On the first visit, the station's security guard denied the agent access and suggested he call and make an appointment. On the second visit, the agent identified himself and was eventually given access to the public files, which were found to be in order.

While the FCC has levied such a large fine against a public station, members of the community here have attempted, with limited success, to view the public files of KHNL/KFVE (these two stations shared an office before the merger) and KGMB in advance of the media merger two years ago.

According to Larry Geller, who visited the offices with a couple of other residents, the General Manager at KHNL said he didn't know where the public file was. The GM located the file, but then said it was locked and the person with the key was at a meeting and not answering his phone. Larry left his number, but never heard back.

At the KGMB offices, Larry and others were able to review the file, which was in serious disarray, with missing documents, unsorted folders. Ultimately, they were unable to locate the material they were looking for and could not confirm whether or not the public file had been maintained properly.

After this experience, Larry filed a complaint with the FCC, but has not, as of yet, received any response. Media Council Hawaii finds it curious and a bit distressing that the FCC would respond as strongly as it did against a public station, while at least appearing to have no interest in investigating a complaint against private stations.