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Radio News: Unlicensed Kentucky TV station on air for almost 20 years

May 14, 2017 11:55 pm
The Federal Communications Commission admitted May 12 that it has allowed an unlicensed low-power television station to operate in Morehead, Kentucky for 19 years. The FCC is proposing a $144,344 fine against Vearl Pennington and Michael Williamson for the pirate operation. The FCC's press release explains how the station has been ignored by the agency for so long. "In 1990, Mr. Pennington was granted an FCC license to operate low-power television station DW10BM in Morehead, Kentucky. Mr. Pennington renewed the station's license in 1993 but failed to do so again in 1998. In 2004, the FCC's Media Bureau wrote to Mr. Pennington to inquire if he had submitted a renewal request in 1998. Receiving no response, the Bureau canceled the license for DW10BM in 2004. Mr. Pennington, joined by Mr. Williamson, continued to operate the station despite their lack of FCC-issued license. After an unrelated FCC filing by another entity referenced the continued operation of DW10BM, the FCC's Media Bureau informed the Enforcement Bureau, which investigated through its Atlanta Field Office and found that the unlicensed station was indeed operating on Channel 10 in Morehead." The two men continued broadcasting during the investigation despite being told, "to cease operation, warned of possible enforcement actions, and issued an on-scene Notice of Unlicensed Radio Operation." Still, Pennington and Williamson persisted. So unhappy, Commissioner O'Rielly issued his own statement. O'Reilly has been the broadcast industry's champion constantly railing about a large pirate radio assault on the airwaves, and, in the face of such blatant incompetence, was apoplectic. "This case highlights how toothless the Commission's approach to broadcast pirates had become under past leadership. How could anyone get away with operating a pirate TV station for almost twenty years?," O'Reilly's statement reads. "No longer a fierce watchdog, the Commission had been reduced to a sometimes annoying, sometimes sleepy, but ultimately harmless Chihuahua when it came to protecting broadcast spectrum licenses. But all pirate operators should be put on notice that we can and we will turn that situation around. I support this Notice of Apparent Liability and look forward to seeing many more to come in this area, if our warnings are not heeded. With pirates crowding legitimate broadcasters out of the spectrum in several of our major metropolitan areas, we can no longer afford to rest. At the same time, the limitations outlined on the proposed forfeiture show that it would be helpful for Congress to revisit and restructure the penalties applicable to pirate broadcasting. More tools in the toolbox would come in handy as we implement a reenergized enforcement approach."
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