Commissioner Highlights Uncertainty on Collection of Fines

While the $1 million fine given to iHeartMedia for misusing Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones was the big news out of the FCC Enforcement Bureau this week, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly had another interesting point to make about the agency’s penalties generally.  According to a blog post by the Commissioner, it is unclear if and how much of the fines are paid.  He stated:

Under the current structure, the Commission does not have a process in place to know whether entities actually pay the fines or penalties assessed pursuant to an enforcement action.  In other words, once a Forfeiture Order is finalized, it somehow seems to drop off the FCC’s radar.

He noted that part of the problem is lack of communication between government bureaucracies because once a penalty is imposed by the FCC, the offender must pay the fine to the U.S. Treasury or be subject to further action by the U.S. Justice Department. 

Not only are enforcement actions meant to be deterrents, but they also set precedents. Commissioner O’Rielly stated, “If our past work is used as the basis for future decisions, consideration must be given to what was actually collected.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: May 22, 2015

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