In a Forfeiture Order released on Friday, Bethany College’s student radio station WVBC 88.1 FM has been fined $6500 for “remaining off the air without Commission authorization for a period of more than 30 days and failing to timely file a license renewal application for the Station.”
According to the FCC’s Forfeiture Order, WVBC’s license renewal was due on June 1, 2011, yet was not filed with the FCC until September 30, 2011. When the renewal was sent in, there was “no explanation for the untimely filing of the renewal application.” The renewal application also pointed out that WVBC went off the air on October 12, 2010 and resumed broadcasting on September 28, 2011.
The FCC’s Forfeiture Order states that, “According to Commission records, Licensee never sought or received Commission authority for the Station to remain silent during this period. Licensee gives no reason for the Station’s silence, or its failure to timely request permission for the Station to remain silent.”
According to a news update from Bethany College in October, 2010, WVBC transitioned to an Internet-only station in fall 2010. The update states,
“Embracing new media and providing students with the best learning and internship options, WVBC has become an Internet-only station. WVBC can now be heard globally on Stretch Internet at http://www.stretchinternet.com/flash/player/bbn.php”
This represents a great advantage to the sound of WVBC. Terrestrial radio stations are subject to interference and environmental factors. Internet sound is less compressed and closer to CD quality.”
However, despite this announcement of the station’s transition to online-only status, it appears that Bethany College made no specific plans for the use of its terrestrial license.
When it submitted its license renewal in September, 2011, Bethany College asked for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to take the station silent, even though it had already been silent for nearly a year without permission. According to WVBC’s STA:
“Licensee is filing with the Commission its renewal application for station license. However, the license will expire October 1, 2011. Because the license will expire October 1, 2011, after September 30, 2011, the station will not have authorization from the Commission to continue its broadcast operations. Consequently, WVBC will shut off its transmitter pending receipt of a license renewal or STA, whichever comes first. The purpose of this STA request is to immediately reestablish the authority to broadcast using Facility # 4954 and the call letters WVBC pending the Commission acting on its license renewal application.”
The STA request goes on to argue for the importance of WVBC’s terrestrial broadcast, stating,
“FM broadcast station WVBC is the only AM or FM station licensed to Bethany, West Virginia. It has a long and storied past of superior service, having been on the air for over 20 years, broadcasting news, weather bulletins, public affairs programming, and public service announcements. It participates in the Emergency Alert System. It furnishes a vital public service to the Bethany, West Virginia and surrounding areas. It is the intention of the Licensee to immediately restore this vital public service upon approval by the Commission.”
Apparently WVBC has been in existence since 1966 at Bethany College in West Virginia. Although it doesn’t have much of an online presence, the station had two Twitter updates in May, 2012 indicating that the station was at least broadcasting online. The most recent update from May 28, 2012 says, “WVBC streams ‘live’ all summer from Bethany College in West Virginia. Check us out on Tunein wherever you are.” When I listened to the station’s stream this week, I heard a mix of hip hop, metal, country, retro rock music (Duran Duran, The Police and even “Babe” by Styx– a staple of my rock radio youth), and pop (Celine Dion) along with a smattering of public service announcements.