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KSCO-AM/Santa Cruz CA Fined $20K for Nighttime Signal


Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission

The FCC has proposed a $20,000 fine against Zwerling Broadcasting System's KSCO-AM/Santa Cruz, CA, for operating non-directionally at night at 1kW. Since 1970, the station has been authorized to operate in a non-directional mode at 10kW during daytime hours, and in a directional mode at 5kW during nighttime hours. The original complaint was filed in 2016. When contacted, Zwerling admitted the station was operating non-directionally at night at 1kW.

The FCC's Enforcement Bureau informed Zwerling that it needed to apply for an STA and then return the Station to its licensed parameters, or apply to modify the Station's authorization to reflect the manner in which it had been operating. Despite this, Zwerling did not request STA or apply to modify the Station's authorization.

In 2020, the Commission received another complaint alleging that the station had been operating at night in non-directional mode at 1kW for more than 30 years. When Media Bureau staff contacted Zwerling about the complaint, Zwerling admitted the station had been operating in non-directional mode with a nominal power of 1kW. Zwerling indicated that the station had "operated for more than thirty years now, at 1000 watts non-directional at night." Zwerling asserted that "in the directional mode [the station] loses coverage to a significant amount of its primary service area."

In October, the Commission issed a NAL for $20,000. In response, Zwerling cites that the station's non-conforming operations allowed it to "serve those in our broadcast area who would not otherwise have had access to the news and information they needed." While this may be true, the FCC concluded, it does not excuse or mitigate Zwerling's violations of the Act and the Rules. Nor does the fact that, according to Zwerling, "no radio station complained of interference" during the station's decades of non-conforming operations.

Finally, the FCC rejected Zwerling's assertion that, prior to the filing of the station's most recent renewal application, the Commission never ordered or even suggested to Zwerling that it should cease its non-conforming operations. As we noted in the NAL, on at least two occasions, the Commission staff informed Zwerling that STA was required to operate the station at variance from its licensed nighttime parameters, and that it needed to file an application to modify the station's authorization.

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