A Greenfield broadcaster who in 2004 tried to force high school and college radio stations to share airtime with him has been fined $8,000 for transmitting from atop a Hancock County farm silo.
The Federal Communications Commission on Monday signed a forfeiture order against Martin Hensley’s Hoosier Public Radio Corp. for operating WRFM-FM 89.1 from an unauthorized location without special temporary authorization.
The commission said WRFM broadcast from the silo on Sept. 28, 2010, and on Feb. 10 and 14, 2011. The silo was three miles from WRFM’s authorized transmitter site.
According to the FCC’s order, the unauthorized transmissions from the silo interfered with an aircraft radio frequency. Hoosier Public Radio claimed there was insufficient evidence of such interference.
Moreover, the company insisted it had applied to the FCC for temporary permission to broadcast from the silo.
But the FCC said Hoosier hadn’t filed the request until Feb.16, 2011, and even then it was to have broadcast from a church steeple in Wilkinson.
The case apparently began after the Federal Aviation Administration complained to the FCC of interference on an aeronautical radio frequency.
The FCC went as far as sending an agent to Hancock County, who tracked down the silo antenna. He turned off the WRFM transmitter and the interference ceased, according to the forfeiture order.
Hensley told IBJ on Wednesday that he believed Hoosier had filed the application to broadcast from the silo in a timely manner and hadn't been notified about the $8,000 fine.
Hensley said he was under the impression that the matter had been settled, with the FCC recently renewing WRFM’s license without problems.
According to the FCC, Hensley had sought a reduced fine, based on previous compliance and his company's “inability to pay.”
In a terse response, the FCC denied relief, saying Hoosier Public Broadcasting failed to provide sufficient financial documentation that it was without means to pay.
“We find it entirely implausible that a corporation operating a radio station could have zero income and zero cash on hand,” the FCC said.
Hensley and his Hoosier Public Radio made headlines in 2004 when he attempted to use a rarely invoked FCC rule that could force educational stations that broadcast less than 12 hours a day to share airtime.
In 2005, the FCC denied Hensley’s petition, which would have forced student-run stations at Carmel High School, Ben Davis High School, Franklin Central High School and Pendleton Heights High School to share airtime with Hoosier.
Schools complained that they were forced to hire attorneys to fight Hoosier Public Radio.
Hoosier Public Radio’s other holdings include WHUZ-FM 88.5 in Cole and WTRE-FM 89.9 in Greensburg, according to FCC records.