Kenai Peninsula broadcaster fights FCC over remote transmitters

Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a $140,000 fine against a Kenai Peninsula broadcaster over violations it alleges have been going on for years.

But the broadcaster is vowing to fight to keep the repeaters that beam his stations around the peninsula.

The FCC is giving Dave Becker and Peninsula Communications Inc. of Homer 30 days to show why it should not be levied the fine. It is giving him 10 days to prove he has taken seven repeater transmitters off the air, or risk losing his full service radio station licenses.

Peninsula Communications operates KPEN, KWVV (K-Wave), KXBA (K-Bay) and KGTL.

The repeaters include two in Kenai and Soldotna, which rebroadcast K-Wave; one each in Anchor Point, Kachemak City and Homer, all of which rebroadcast KPEN; and two in Kodiak, which rebroadcast KPEN and K-Wave. The signals originate in Homer.

The FCC's fine is $10,000 for each violation, which for the seven repeaters amounts to $70,000. However, in its order, the commission stated that Becker was intentionally and repeatedly flouting the law, and doubled the fine to $140,000.

In May, the FCC rescinded the repeaters' licenses, canceled their call signs and ordered Becker to take them off the air. He refused, saying he does not recognize the FCC's order to shut off the seven repeaters.

''We don't consider the licenses revoked. It is an unlawful order, and I'm not about to obey an unlawful order,'' he told the Peninsula Clarion.

Becker said he remains on the air not to defy the FCC, but to protect his stations.

''If you're off the air for more than 12 months, your license goes away forever,'' he said.

He said such an expiration would render moot an appeal he has before a Washington, D.C., district court.

''I can't predict how long the court will take. That's the main reason I'm staying on the air, to keep my appeal alive,'' he said.

Becker's repeaters were granted license renewals at one time, pending his divestiture of them, but the FCC later rescinded them.

In 1994, the FCC ruled that all radio stations across the country must turn off repeater stations, called translators, that are outside the coverage area of their parent station's signal. Translators inside a coverage area are allowed, so areas that get little or no reception can be filled in. This is convenient, especially for FM stations, because an FM signal can easily be weakened or blocked by the terrain. Becker's translators are all outside the primary coverage area of their parent stations, according to the FCC.

''This has taken some time due to the fact that there have been many, many changes in the commission and investigation after investigation,'' said FCC Enforcement Bureau spokesperson John Winston in Washington, D.C. ''The new (enforcement) bureau came into being two years ago and took cases from other bureaus and have been moving swiftly since then.''

In addition to the proposed fine, the FCC has filed a lawsuit in an Anchorage court to force Becker to shut down the repeaters.

The proposed fines and enforcement action were applauded by Bob Sommer, general manager of KVOK/KRXX, a commercial radio station in Kodiak that broadcasts country western and adult contemporary music.

''We've tried to take the high road on this thing, but believe what they're doing is illegal,'' Sommer told the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

''It's the same thing as if I stuck a piece of electronics (to broadcast the KVOK signal) over in Homer,'' he said. ''Do you think the (radio) people in Homer would appreciate it? I don't think so.''

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