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FCC Pulls License of Alabama Station a Second Time

AM broadcaster said IRS owes it $2 million, but it has lost its ticket over late regulatory fees

A small Alabama radio station has lost its license for failure to pay late regulatory fees to the FCC.

WGEA(AM), licensed to Shelley Broadcasting Co., is located in Geneva, Ala. Its license was for operation at 1150 kHz, with 1 kW daytime power. This license in fact had been revoked in 2017 and the station apparently has been off the air since, though the FCC briefly reinstated it this summer while the legal case was playing out.

Revocations are rare and considered a big deal; and this new order was signed by the chief of the Media Bureau as well as the managing director of the commission. According to the FCC, WGEA owed regulatory fees for every fiscal year from 2008 to 2016. The commission said it sent earlier letters demanding payment of the debt and said SBC did not respond or pay.

[Read WGEA’s appeal letter to the FCC.]

This June, it issued an order requiring SBC to pay, show cause why it could not, or face revocation for good. The company then told the FCC that it had not paid because the IRS had withheld a sizable refund owed to SBC’s president and his wife since 1987. According to a post on the station’s still-active website, the amount due to them is $2 million.

But the commission now has ruled that the station provided no documentary evidence that SBC itself is financially unable to pay the regulatory fee debt. “In failing to provide the required documentation, SBC has not met its burden of showing extraordinary and compelling circumstances outweighing the public interest to justify a waiver of its outstanding regulatory fee obligations.”

So the commission pulled the license and rejected the station’s renewal application. And, by the way, “We note that this Revocation Order does not relieve SBC of its obligation to pay any debt, including any regulatory fee, or any other financial obligation that is owed or may in the future be owed to the commission.

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