FCC To Fine Unlicensed Kentucky LPTV

The commission wants to charge the operators of a low-power TV station in Morehead, Ky., $144,344 for operating without a valid license after they failed to renew their license and ignored FCC warnings.


The FCC today proposed a $144,344 fine against Vearl Pennington and Michael Williamson for operating an unlicensed low-power television station in Morehead, Ky. An FCC investigation found that these individuals continued to operate well after the FCC license for their station was canceled following failure to file a renewal. 

The proposed fine is the maximum allowed for ongoing violations of the Communications Act, justified by the individuals’ continued operation of the station for years despite repeated warnings that they were in violation of the law. 

Federal law prohibits the operation of a broadcast television station without a license issued by the FCC. Congress enacted this requirement as a means of ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of scarce spectrum resources among entities, such as TV and radio broadcasters, public safety agencies, and wireless phone and data networks.  nlicensed, or “pirate,” broadcasts can cause interference to licensed uses, such as potentially preventing the public from viewing or hearing important public safety warnings.  

In 1990, Pennington was granted an FCC license to operate low-power television station DW10BM in Morehead. He renewed the station’s license in 1993 but failed to do so again in 1998. In 2004, the FCC’s Media Bureau wrote to Pennington to inquire if he had submitted a renewal request in 1998. Receiving no response, the bureau canceled the license for DW10BM in 2004. Pennington, joined by Williamson, continued to operate the station despite their lack of FCC-issued license.

After an unrelated FCC filing by another entity referenced the continued operation of DW10BM, the FCC’s Media Bureau informed the Enforcement Bureau, which investigated through its Atlanta Field Office and found that the unlicensed station was indeed operating on ch. 10 in Morehead.

FCC agents met with Pennington and Williamson during the investigation and warned both individuals that their unlicensed broadcasts violated FCC rules and the Communications Act. The station was instructed to cease operation, warned of possible enforcement actions and issued an on-scene Notice of Unlicensed Radio Operation.


Despite these warnings, the men continued to operate the station, the FCC said. 

Comments (6)

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Ellen Samrock says:

May 12, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Bottomline: When the FCC inquires you gotta respond. Treat it like a jury summons or a traffic ticket. Ignore it at your peril. Time for good ole’ boys Vearl and Michael to get out their tax returns and explain to the Feds why they can’t cough up 144K.

Patrick Burns says:

May 12, 2017 at 2:32 pm

This is an example of the type of LPTV that gives the industry a bad name. If you do not read your mail , you are a
slob or think you are above the law. It’s FCC’s ball game & to not follow the FCCs rules is just plain stupid.

Warren Harmon says:

May 13, 2017 at 3:12 am

Why didn’t the FCC not confiscate the equipment after the cease order?

Matt Hortobagyi says:

May 14, 2017 at 7:57 pm

Operate a pirate station for nearly 20 years. It is about time they got fined.

Tomeika Evans says:

May 19, 2017 at 10:37 am

Hello Folks:

I’m Joe Donalson. I’m from Texas and not directly connected with W10BM. I’ve just visited the operation, and have seen first hand what a real valuable public service this station is offering its community. Morehead Kentucky is surrounded by mountains, making reception of distant Lexington digital channels all but impossible. When I visited, W10BM was the ONLY station I could receive on my portable set. They were broadcasting a live call in “tradio” type program, and giving regular weather updates.

The FCC decision to fine this station $144,000 is a miscarriage of justice. The written decision says the station failed to renew. That’s a factual misstatement. What really happened is that the FCC lost the paperwork. The manager of W10BM still has a bank statement proving that the FCC received the paperwork, as the FCC charged the renewal fee to the station’s credit card.

Now, after all these years, the FCC has sold off most of the TV band to wireless companies in the spectrum auction. What stations are left have to repack. The FCC wants W10BM’s channel for another LPTV station to repack to. So after nearly 20 years of ignoring W10BM, they are finally trying to make it “go away.”

Tomeika Evans says:

July 3, 2017 at 10:56 pm

Uh, oh. The FCC claims this station never renewed, but all of a sudden they have to eat crow. Proof in the FCC’s own filing system that the renewal fee was paid and the paperwork got lost. https://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/cdbsmenu.hts?context=25&appn=101760214&formid=917&fac_num=69839

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