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AM License in Arizona Is Restored, for Now

Well behind on FCC fees, Cortaro Broadcasting clings to a 60-day twig

An AM station in Arizona has a reprieve — but only a slight one — before the Federal Communications Commission potentially moves to cancel its license and perhaps delete its call sign for good.

The FCC modified course in the matter of a station that it says owns several years of back fees; it decided that the Media Bureau made a procedural error earlier while dismissing the renewal application.

In June 2017, the FCC cancelled the license of Cortaro Broadcasting’s KCKY(AM) and deleted its call sign from the FCC database because Cortaro owed more than $68,400. Cortaro then appealed, according to a commission account, saying that the bureau had failed to follow procedures when it came to renewing KCKY’s license. The bureau also failed take into account other issues, Cortaro argued, including the public service provided by the station, its financial struggles or the fact that cancellation would reduce minority ownership of broadcast facilities in its area of coverage.

In reviewing the matter, the FCC now says, it found that the Media Bureau did act too hastily in one area. The rules state that when a renewal application is filed, a station’s license continues to be valid while a hearing is ongoing. So while the Media Bureau was correct in dismissing the renewal application, the FCC decided, the license cancellation and call letter deletion were premature. “Because Cortaro timely filed the petition, its previous license continues in effect.” It reinstated the station’s license and call letters.

But the commission said it considers outstanding debts owed to the U.S. government to be a serious matter. So while it reversed the Media Bureau’s earlier decision it simultaneously initiated a proceeding to again revoke the station’s license for failure to pay delinquent regulatory fees.

The FCC ordered Cortaro to pay its overdue regulatory fees, including any penalties, or show cause why payment should be waived or deferred. According to the commission, Cortaro has unpaid regulatory fees totaling more than $68,400 for several calendar years between 2008 and 2015. That’s in addition to the 25% penalty in late fees that the licensee must pay.

The FCC has given Cortaro 60 days to pay all fees and penalties. Failure to provide proof of payment may result in revocation of KCKY’s license.