FCC Cites Stations But Renews Licenses

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The FCC Tuesday proposed $38,000 in fines against stations for information-reporting violations and, in one case, numerous violations of kids-TV ad limits. But it renewed their licenses anyway, concluding the violations were not sufficiently serious to warrant a license hearing.

All the stations had volunteered the violations as part of their license-renewal appplications.

The biggest proposed fine, $18,000, was for commercial overages on WDKA Paducah, Ky.

The FCC limits commercial time in kids TV programs to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

According to the station's own accounting, it violated those ad limits a dozen times from 1997 through 2004, including seven program-length commercials. The FCC has concluded that any ad for a character that also appears in the show transforms the entire program into an ad.

The culprit was a familiar one for WB stations--an ad in the Pokemon program for a Gameboy E-Reader that contained a fleeting image of a Pokemon card. Several other stations have already been hit by the FCC for the same ad. In addition, a Fruit Loops commercial with an image of a Pokemon character also aired in the Pokemon show.

The station pled inadvertence and human error, neither of which got it off the hook with the FCC.

Calling the violations "willful and repeated," the commission more than doubled the baseline $8,000 for such violations. But it said that, on balance, the violations were not sufficiently "serious" to warrant designating the license for a hearing.

Hit with $10,000 proposed fines apiece, but still getting their licenses renewed as well, were WRSP Springfield, Ill., and WDBB Bessemer, Ala., both for failure to place numerous children's TV programming reports in their public files.

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