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Arizona LPFM Can Continue Broadcasting

Nearby station alleges multiple rule violations but FCC dismisses its petition

The Media Bureau approved the reinstatement of a low-power FM license in Arizona over the objection of a nearby broadcaster who cried foul about FCC rule violations., which is licensee of KBSZ(AM) in Apache Junction, Ariz., contested the grant of an application filed by San Tan Educational Media, which holds a license for the LPFM station KFXY in Mesa, Ariz. ITV alleged multiple rule violations including unauthorized transfer of control and nonconforming construction violations.

After the station was licensed in 2015, the family members that comprised the original San Tan board left Arizona and moved to Texas, which meant a 100% board change had happened — in effect, San Tan allowed for a new board without asking the Federal Communications Commission for its assent to the transfer of control.

[Read: Arizona LP Licensee Agrees to $1,500 Consent Decree]

San Tan acknowledged the error and tried to correct he matter by filing a transfer application. The station went silent while those matters were pending due to a local dispute over San Tan’s use of a new site.

The Media Bureau saw the board change as a violation and in response, San Tan signed a consent decree in which they agreed to pay a civil forfeiture and set up a compliance plan to prevent future violations. The bureau also determined that San Tan’s violations did not disqualify them for holding a license. The station was subsequently silent for more than 12 consecutive months and was given an extension to stay silent even longer by the FCC. The commission thus reinstated the station’s license and extended the time for San Tan to resume broadcasting. San Tan then resumed operating on Jan. 15, 2020.

But ITV cried foul in a Petition For Reconsideration filed with the FCC. The company argued that the bureau misapplied its own rules by giving an extension to San Tan and it miscalculated the deadline for resumption of operations.

The Media Bureau said that its decision to reinstate the station’s license was correctly based on its desire to promote equity and fairness, one of three principals it relies on when figuring out whether to reinstate a station’s license after more than 12 consecutive months of silence.

The Media Bureau also dismissed ITV’s allegation that San Tan used an incorrect antenna mounted at an unauthorized height. It says that these newly alleged facts by ITV are insufficient to reconsider San Tan’s fitness to hold a license.

While the bureau agreed with ITV’s assertion that San Tan violated FCC rules by not filing a transfer application before its board change, it disagreed with the argument that the organization could have been running amuck with a new board filled with unqualified directors. The bureau rejected the idea that these circumstances caused the station’s license to expire. Yes, San Tan underwent  a board change but operations that happened before San Tan managed to file the right forms were not equivalent to “unlicensed pirate operations,” the bureau said.

The commission also shot down ITV’s request that the bureau recalculate San Tan’s return-to-air deadline. There’s nothing in the Communications Act or FCC Rules that specifies the amount of time that the commission may give a silent station upon reinstating a license.

As a result, the bureau denied ITV’s Petition For Reconsideration regarding the reinstatement of San Tan’s low-power broadcast license.