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Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
In the Matter of )
GREAT LAKES COMMUNITY ) EB-01-IH-0493
BROADCASTING, INC. ) Facility #93742
) Facility #94015
Licensee of Noncommercial )
Educational Station WAAQ(FM), )
Onsted, Michigan )
And Translator Station W214BH, )
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Adopted: December 4, 2003 Released:
December 4, 2003
By the Deputy Chief, Investigations and Hearings Division,
1. By this Order, we admonish Great Lakes Community
Broadcasting, Inc. (``Great Lakes''), licensee of
noncommercial educational Station WAAQ(FM), Onsted,
Michigan, and translator Station W214BH, Mount Pleasant,
Michigan, for broadcasting impermissible donor and
underwriting advertisements in violation of section 399B of
the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (``the Act''),1
and section 73.503 of the Commission's rules,2 and for
airing originations concerning financial support on its
translator station in excess of the limitations set forth in
section 74.1231(g) of the Commission's rules.3 Based upon
our review of the facts and circumstances of this case, we
conclude that Great Lakes has violated these statutory and
Commission underwriting and translator rule provisions.
Although we believe that no monetary sanction is warranted
at this time in light of the licensee's unblemished
enforcement record and other facts and circumstances
relating to this area of the law, we find that an
admonishment is necessary to redress these statutory and
II. The Commission's Rules Regarding Underwriting
2. Noncommercial educational stations may not
broadcast advertisements. Advertisements are defined by the
Act as program material broadcast "in exchange for any
remuneration" and intended to "promote any service,
facility, or product" of for-profit entities.4 Although
contributors of funds to noncommercial stations may receive
on-air acknowledgements, the Commission has held that such
acknowledgements may be made for identification purposes
only, and should not promote the contributors' products,
services, or business.5
3. Specifically, such announcements may not contain
comparative or qualitative descriptions, price information,
calls to action, or inducements to buy, sell, rent or
lease.6 The Commission has nevertheless acknowledged that
it is at times difficult to distinguish between language
that promotes versus that which merely identifies the
underwriter. Consequently, it expects only that licensees
exercise reasonable, good faith judgment in this area.7
4. Section 74.1231 of the Commission's rules imposes
restrictions on the content, length, and frequency of
licensee-originated program material broadcast over
translator stations. Specifically, the rule provides that
such originations shall be limited to emergency warnings of
imminent danger and to seeking or acknowledging of support
deemed necessary to the continued operation of the
translator. Originations concerning financial support are
limited to a total of thirty seconds per hour.
Acknowledgments of support may identify the contributors,
what they have donated, and may contain their advertising
messages.8 However, the same restrictions that apply to
solicitations by, and donations to, noncommercial FM
stations are also applicable to noncommercial FM
III. The Facts
5. In August 2001, we received a confidential
complaint, including the text of numerous announcements
allegedly broadcast over Station WAAQ(FM) and translator
Station W214BH from June 18 through July 13, 2001. These
announcements appeared to promote the products or services
of presumably for-profit entities, and are alleged to
contravene the statute, as implemented and interpreted by
applicable Commission rules, precedent and policy. By
inquiry letters dated August 30, 2001,10 and May 7, 2002,11
we requested that Great Lakes comment on these allegations.
6. In its September 13, 200112 and May 23, 2002, 13
responses to the 2001 LOI and 2002 LOI, respectively, Great
Lakes admits that it aired all of the identified
underwriting announcements on its translator station,
W214BH, but claims that it did not broadcast any over its
primary station, WAAQ(FM), other than those made on behalf
of Mount Pleasant Tire Service. Great Lakes argues that all
of its underwriting announcements comply with the pertinent
Commission underwriting guidelines and were aired consistent
with its good-faith discretion under the Xavier case.14
However, Great Lakes also represents that, since July 2001,
it has begun to ``carefully monitor all of our underwriting
messages and to make those advertising messages which are
broadcast once per hour on [translator station W214BH] to
more closely conform with the underwriting messages and
donor announcements broadcast on our primary station, WAAQ
in Onsted.''15 Great Lakes further claims that it has made
efforts to limit the length of advertising messages
broadcast on its translator station to thirty seconds or
less per hour. It argues that, although the rule in
question, 47 C.F.R. § 74.1231(g), limits the length of and
frequency by which underwriting messages may be aired, it
specifically allows translator facilities such as Station
W214BH to air ``advertising messages'' that promote their
7. After reviewing the record and pertinent
precedent, we find that all of the subject underwriting
announcements exceed the bounds of what is permissible under
section 399B of the Act, and the Commission's applicable
rules and policies, even in light of the ``good faith''
discretion afforded licensees under Xavier.16 The
announcements encourage or invite business patronage, make
prohibited price references, or depict the underwriters in a
comparative and qualitative manner. For example, the
announcements made by Great Lakes on behalf of Turner's
Appliances, Wincell Cellular, NPI Wireless, Top Dog Audio
Center, and Terry's Motorless Motion provide price or other
information concerning product discounts, rebates or
warranties that encourage business patronage, and are thus
specifically prohibited.17 In addition, the announcements
made by Great Lakes on behalf of Turner's Appliances, Mount
Pleasant Tire Service, and Heritage Chrysler of Mount
Pleasant each make prohibited qualitative statements
concerning each underwriter's products.18 Therefore, we
find that Great Lakes violated section 399B of the Act and
section 73.503 of the Commission's rules.19
8. We further reject Great Lakes' contention that
section 74.1231(g) of the Commission's rules allows
noncommercial translator stations to broadcast ``advertising
messages'' that promote their for-profit sponsors.20 The
same restrictions that apply to messages aired by
noncommercial FM stations are applicable to noncommercial FM
translator facilities.21 Consequently, this argument is
without merit. The evidence in this case establishes that
Great Lakes aired underwriting messages in excess of the
thirty-second per hour limitation set forth in 47 C.F.R. §
74.1231(g). In this regard, the complainant supplied
transcripts and audiotape evidence that purport to reflect
the translator station's broadcast of continuous advertising
messages, each in blocks of several minutes. The
complainant further claims that these message blocks were
aired mid-hour. We note, that even if the message blocks
were broadcast at the top-of-the-hour, straddling two
separate broadcast hours, the uninterrupted airing of
several minutes of continuous advertising messages over the
subject translator station would, in fact, exceed the
thirty-second per hour limitation set forth in 47 C.F.R. §
74.1231(g). Therefore, we find that Great Lakes violated
section 74.1231 of the Commission's rules.22
9. We conclude that a sanction is appropriate.
However, in view of the licensee's unblemished enforcement
record and other facts and circumstances relating to this
area of the law, we do not believe a monetary forfeiture is
necessary to redress the instant rule violations, and
instead conclude that an admonishment is sufficient at this
time.23 We strongly urge Great Lakes to examine its
practices to ensure that, in the future, its operation will
comply with the rule's limitation concerning advertising
message length and the frequency by which they are aired.
V. Ordering Clauses
10. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Great Lakes
Community Broadcasting, Inc., licensee of noncommercial
educational Station WAAQ(FM), Onsted, Michigan, and
translator Station W214BH, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, IS
ADMONISHED for having broadcast underwriting messages in
apparent violation of section 399B of the Act,24 and section
73.503 of the Commission's rules,25 and for airing
originations concerning financial support on its translator
station in excess of the limitations set forth in section
74.1231(g) of the Commission's rules.26
11. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a copy of this Order
shall be sent, by Certified Mail/Return Receipt Requested,
to Great Lakes Community Broadcasting, Inc., P.O. Box 334,
Stanwood, Michigan 49346.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
William D. Freedman
Investigations and Hearings
The following text was transcribed from audio-tape
recordings of underwriting announcements allegedly broadcast
on noncommercial educational Station WAAQ(FM), Onsted,
Michigan, and translator Station W214BH, Mt. Pleasant,
Michigan, from June 18, 2001, through July 13, 2001:
Turner's Appliance. WAAQ and 90.7 thanks Turner's Appliance
for its support. Turner's Appliance and Amana are putting
the freeze on prices with cool rebates. Amana has a $75
rebate on its new Easy Reach Plus 20.5 cu. Ft. capacity
refrigerator. The Amana Easy Reach Plus has an easy freezer
pull out drawer and spill saver adjustable glass shelves.
The Side-by-side Amana refrigerators with 25.8 cu. Ft.
capacity are packed with features and have a $50 rebate.
Turner's Appliancežjust south of Big Rapids on Old US 131 in
Roger's Heights. The phone number is 592-1522. Turner's
Appliancežopen daily till 5:30, Saturday 8 till 3.
Mt. Pleasant Tire Service. We offer complete and dependable
car care service and of course we stock a complete line of
quality B.F. Goodrich, Goodyear and Continental General
tires for all vehicles. Whether you need car repairs or
tire repairs or a new set of tires, Mt. Pleasant Tire
Service is equipped to handle your needs in a fast, friendly
manner. Mt. Pleasant Tire Service is conveniently located
at 120 S. Fancher and the phone number is 773-5626. Now
here's this hours AAA road report on WAAQ.
Wincell Cellular. The following is underwritten on WAAQ
from Wincell Cellular of Mt. Pleasant. We've all been
there. It's dark, the weather is bad, you're on an
unfamiliar stretch of road, hoping to get home. It's only
then you wish you had the safety and security of cellular
from CenturyTel and Wincell Cellular. And you can, for less
than $10 a month. You can give your family the safety and
security of cellular from CenturyTel and Wincell Cellular.
With 100 anytime minutes, for life, and the phone is free.
Available at Wincell Cellular, your local CenturyTel agent
in Mt. Pleasant. Offer ends June 30th. Some restrictions
NPI Wireless. NPI Wireless is giving away a Yamaha wave
runner. How can you win? Register today at an NPI Wireless
retail location. Digital handsets for only $19.00 and Go
America Plans with free long distance and roaming. Need to
hear it again? NPI Wireless. Win a wave runner. Ask about
free long distance, free roaming, and affordable digital
phones. NPI Wireless. Go America Plans with free long
distance and roaming.
Heritage Chrysler of Mt. Pleasant. For sixty years we've
been serving the automotive needs for the residents of
Isabella County. Sixty years is a long time in the car
business. We've seen a lot of dealerships come and go in
the mid-Michigan area for a variety of reasons, but we're
still here. If things like stability, reliability,
commitment to customers and community and reputation mean
anything when it comes to your second largest lifetime
purchase? We may not always have the best price or the
right vehicle, but if you get it from us, you can count on
us being there. Heritage Chrysler of Mt. Pleasant. Sixty
Top Dog Car Audio Center. Top Dog Car Audio is pleased to
underwrite WAAQ's programming and here's something to really
make your tail wag. [Music.] Woof, woof, woof, woof.
[Indecipherable; presumably a brand of car stereo] AM-FM CD
receiver, regularly $199.95 now just $149.95 installed,
parts extra and a free two-year warranty when installed by
Top Dog Car Audio. Top Dog Car Audio of Mt. Pleasant, 2231
East Remus Road, phone 773-4705. You can enjoy 90.7 FM
oldies on your new [Indecipherable; presumably a brand of
car stereo] AM-FM CD receiver from Top Dog Car Audio Center.
[Music.] Woof, woof, woof, woof. Your tail waggin' dealer.
Terry's Motorless Motion. WAAQ thanks Terry's Motorless
Motion for this underwriting tip. Terry's Motorless Motion
sells Schwinn, Specialized and Diamondback BMX bikes. These
bikes will last for years, and have extensive warranties and
Terry will make free minor adjustments as long as you own
the bike. Whether you want a comfort bike, mountain bike,
cruiser or a hybrid, Terry at Motorless Motion has the bike
for you! Motorless Motion, 121 South Main, Mt. Pleasant.
Open daily at 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., till late Fridays,
and until five Saturdays. Motorless Motion's phone number
1 47 U.S.C. § 399b.
2 47 C.F.R. § 73.503.
3 47 C.F.R. § 74.1231(g).
4 47 U.S.C. §399b(a).
5 See In the Matter of Commission Policy Concerning the
Noncommercial Nature of Educational Broadcasting Stations,
Public Notice (1986), republished, 7 FCC Rcd 827 (1992)
7 See Xavier University, 5 FCC Rcd 4920 (1990).
8 See 47 C.F.R. § 74.1231(g).
9 See Amendment of Part 74 of the Commission's Rules
Concerning FM Translator Stations, 5 FCC Rcd 7212, 7217
10 Letter from the Chief, Investigations and Hearings
Division, Enforcement Bureau, to Great Lakes Broadcasting,
Inc., dated August 30, 2001 (``2001 LOI'').
11 Letter from the Chief, Investigations and Hearings
Division, Enforcement Bureau, to Great Lakes Broadcasting,
Inc., dated May 7, 2002 (``2002 LOI'').
12Letter from Dr. James J. McCluskey, President, Great Lakes
Broadcasting, Inc, to the Chief, Investigations and Hearings
Division, Enforcement Bureau, dated September 13, 2001
13 Letter from Dr. James J. McCluskey, President, Great
Lakes Broadcasting, Inc, to the Chief, Investigations and
Hearings Division, Enforcement Bureau, dated May 23, 2002
14See 2001 Response and 2002 Response, citing Xavier, 5 FCC
15 See 2001 Response at 4.
16 See Xavier, 5 FCC Rcd 4920.
17 See id.
18 See Public Notice, 7 FCC Rcd 827.
19 47 U.S.C. § 399b and 47 C.F.R. § 73.503.
20 See 2001 Response.
21 See Amendment of Part 74 of the Commission's Rules
Concerning FM Translator Stations, 5 FCC Rcd 7212.
22 47 C.F.R. § 74.1231(g).
23 See Note to 47 C.F.R. § 1.80(b)(4).
24 47 U.S.C. § 399b.
25 47 C.F.R. § 73.503.
47 C.F.R. § 74.1231(g).