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FCC Gives Birach AM Another Chance

Oklahoma station has had issues maintaining service

An Oklahoma licensee must demonstrate the essential capability to stay on the air if it wishes to remain in good standing with the FCC.

The commission, in an order released just before Christmas, took Birach Broadcasting to task for extended periods of silence on KJMU(AM) in Sand Springs, Okla. It granted the company a one-year extension of the station’s license, rather than the normal eight years, and reminded it that a station doesn’t serve the community when it is off air.

This is the station’s second one-year renewal. The first expired in July.

“The FCC’s Media Bureau granted licensee a shortened renewal term because the station had been silent for extended periods of time during its prior license term,” according to the FCC’s account.

Yet KJMU was silent for more than four months during the extension. In a request for silent special temporary authority, Birach blamed transmitter problems. But the FCC pointed out that the station had been silent for 37% of its license term and 27% of the extension.

Further, although KJMU is licensed to operate at 500 watts daytime and 1 kW nighttime, when the station come back on in May it was operating at 25% of authorized power by day and was off at night.

Birach blamed transmitter issues and delays in obtaining repair parts. The FCC said KJMU operated at reduced power for nearly two months before it obtained an STA for doing so. And the FCC says that as far as it knows the station continues to operate at reduced power and only during the day, even though it is required to operate unlimited time.

The fresh one-year license renewal runs to Dec. 22, 2024. The commission also admonished Birach for operating at reduced power without authorization.

“Silence instead of operation in accordance with a station’s FCC authorization is a fundamental failure to serve a broadcast station’s community of license, because a silent station offers that community no public service programming such as news, public affairs, weather information, and Emergency Alert System notifications,” wrote Audio Division Chief Albert Shuldiner in the decision.

“In this case, (the) licensee’s conduct has repeatedly fallen short of that which would warrant routine license renewal. Licensee’s stewardship of the station fails to meet the public service commitment which licensees are expected to provide to their communities of license on a daily basis because the station was silent for a significant portion of the license term and operated at reduced power for a significant period of time without commission authorization. … The commission does not take unauthorized operation lightly.”

If at the end of the renewal period the FCC determines Birach still fell short of maintaining service, it could designate the license for hearing, or it could place another condition on renewal that specifies that additional renewals will depend on Birach returning KJMU to unlimited operation during that term.

Birach Broadcasting Corp., based in Southfield, Mich., owns 15 AM stations in cities across the country. Sima Birach is president/CEO.

[More FCC news: “The FCC Keeps Radio Market Caps in Place” ]

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