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FCC Denies Ala. Translator Transfer

A failure to meet a common ownership requirement doomed the reassignment

The FCC blocked the reassignment of an FM translator license in Alabama, determining that no valid license existed.

The translator, W237FK, was owned by Brantley Broadcast Associates LLC who on Nov. 30, 2022, sought to transfer it to Christopher W. Johnson, licensee of station WAMI(AM) in Opp, Ala, The original construction permit for W237FK was granted to Brantley in 2018 with the precondition it be connected to the ownership of WAMI in perpetuity.

On Aug. 1, 2017, Brantley filed for a CP for a translator at Calera, Ala., as part of Auction 99, which was designed to bolster AM radio by allowing for FM rebroadcasts up to 250 miles away. Brantley was allowed to file for the CP under section 73.3517 because that same day Johnson filed for consent to assign the license of WAMI to Brantley.

On Jan. 18, 2018, the FCC approved the translator CP with the condition that the same party must own both WAMI and W237FK.

“Grant of this authorization is conditioned on the common ownership, in perpetuity, of this facility and the specified AM primary station. Any violation of this condition shall result in the rescission of the grant of this authorization and the dismissal, with prejudice, of the associated application and, if applicable, cancellation of the associated construction permit,” wrote the FCC.

Two months later, in March 2018, the commission granted the assignment of WAMI to Brantley, noting that the agreement must be consummated within 90 days. According to the commission’s 2023 ruling, no notice of the deal being finalized was ever provided.

Between March 2018 and the November 2022 request to assign W237FK to Johnson, Brantley made multiple filings regarding the CP, including several minor modifications in 2020 and 2021, as well as a license to cover application on July 9, 2021, and for special temporary authorization to remain silent in March 2022 due to tower issues at WAMI.

On Mar. 22, 2022, the FCC granted the license to cover and the STA, but restated that the translator’s license conditions required common ownership of W237FK and WAMI.

Eight months later, on Nov. 30, 2022, Brantley sought permission to assign authorization for W237FK to Johnson, raising an objection from Marble City Media LLC.

[Read more of our FCC coverage here.]

Marble City asserted that the transfer of WAMI from Johnson to Brantley was never consummated, leaving the W237FK CP in violation of its license conditions and therefore Brantley’s request should be denied and translator’s authorization should be rescinded with prejudice.

Because Marble City did not provide the required affidavit to support under penalty of perjury its allegations, the FCC ruled the objection was procedurally deficient. However, in line with prior commission actions, it still considered the claims as an informal objection.

“Like petitions to deny, informal objections must provide properly supported allegations of fact that, if true, would establish a substantial and material question of fact that grant of the application would be prima facie inconsistent with the Act. We find that Marble City has met this burden,” the commission wrote.

In its decision, the FCC noted that Brantley and Johnson were obliged to submit to the FCC by May 29, 2018, written notification documenting the transfer of WAMI to Brantley. Without this, Brantley was in violation of the specific terms of the CP for W237FK requiring joint ownership of WAMI and the translator.

“We have carefully considered all of the facts involved in this matter and find that Brantley failed to act with the responsibility and diligence expected of a Commission licensee and required by the terms of the W237FK authorization and associated construction permit,” the commission wrote. “… More than four years have passed since the grant of the WAMI Assignment and neither party has notified the Commission that consummation of the assignment was completed or has requested an extension of time to fulfill the condition.”

Because no such notice or completion or request for an extension was filed with the FCC by the 2018 deadline (nor during the subsequent four years), the CP was rescinded. “We rescind the grant of the W237FK authorization, dismiss, with prejudice, the associated application, cancel the associated construction permit, and delete the W237FK call sign. Additionally, we terminate W237FK’s operating authority.”

With this move, there was no valid license to assign to Johnson and therefore the request to transfer the authorization, as well as Marble City’s objection, were declared moot.