FCC fines KCET $10,000, alleging public file access violations

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The Federal Communications Commission is fining KCET in Los Angeles $10,000 for failing to make available the station’s public inspection file. The FCC posted the notice (PDF) Tuesday (Feb. 8).

It describes how an agent from the FCC enforcement bureau’s L.A. district office, without identifying himself as an agent, showed up on Aug. 19, 2010, at the station lot’s main gate and requested to see the file. A security guard told him he had to make an appointment, and denied his request to speak with the station manager. The agent left. The same thing happened the next day.

On the third day, the agent identified himself and showed FCC credentials to the guard. “After a thorough examination of the agent’s badge and several phone calls to Station KCET personnel inside the building,” the FCC report says, “the agent was allowed to go inside of the facility and view the public inspection file. The agent found that the Station KCET public inspection file was complete.”

A KCET station rep subsequently told the agent that the general counsel was not in the office on those days, and she didn’t know rules regarding public access to the records. The security supervisor said in general, persons wishing to view the file must make an appointment, and cited KCET’s security protocol to conduct screenings at the gate.

The alleged violations took place before the station declared its independence from PBS membership (Current, Oct. 18, 2010).

UPDATE: KCET sent Current this statement in response: “As stated in the FCC notice, KCET’s Public Inspection Files are in order. KCET is looking into the alleged violation and will respond to the FCC notice by the March 10, 2011 deadline.”

  • Julie Drizin/@AIRMQ2

    Who knew that the FCC was actually paying any attention to public files? I remember being the keeper of such a file when I worked at a station many years ago. It was mostly an administrative nightmare with program listings entered and sorted in stone-age DOS Database! I wonder if any other public media stations have recently been visited by inspectors. Would be interesting to crowdsource and map this information to see if there are any trends to watch. I would also like to know if commercial stations are facing similar scrutiny…And most of all, are these random searches, or are they triggered by disgruntled employees or listeners?

  • Dru

    Hi Julie, Dru from Current here. Thanks for the comment. I was wondering the same thing, particularly with KCET’s recent independence from PBS. Did an employee (or former) upset with that decision “tip off” the FCC just to create problems for the station? Possibility, I guess. But, yes, I hope if any other stations are encountering FCC visitors they would let us know.