A radio station in Missouri with what the FCC calls a “long history of rule violations” will be able to continue operations if it adheres to certain conditions.
Calvary Educational Broadcasting Network Inc., (CEB) the licensee of KOKS(FM) in Poplar Bluff, Mo., has been taking steps to remedy interference issues mostly brought on by financial difficulty. However, it must continue in compliance with parts of an earlier 2020 consent decree that remedied blanket interference complaints from neighbors, according to the FCC’s Media Bureau.
KOKS broadcasts a religious format known as King of Kings Christian Radio at 89.5 MHz. It has been beleaguered by financial problems for three decades, according to the commission’s account, while it was managed by members of the Stewart family.
The station’s most prominent repeated violation was a failure to correct extensive FM blanketing interference caused to surrounding homes.
The FCC says the controlling party at the time “lacked the technical expertise and financial resources” to fix the issues. In 1994 a commission review board renewed its license for a one-year term with the expectation the licensee would find an engineering solution or reimburse affected neighbors for the cost of cable or satellite services.
However, the FCC says CEB neither corrected the interference nor reimbursed the neighbors. “The bureau, thus, could not find that CEB was operating in the public interest without serious violations and held in abeyance several subsequent license renewal applications that CEB filed in 1995, 2005 and 2012,” according to the FCC account.
By 2017 the station was operating at substantially reduced power due to failing equipment, thus limiting interference complaints. The license was transferred in 2019 to a new governing board controlled by Gerald Woolverton and family, according to documents. The commission and the board entered into a consent decree in 2020 in which CEB admitted to past rule violations and agreed to a plan for potential resolution. The licensee also agreed to a probationary period of increased oversight by the FCC.
As part of the consent decree, KOKS agreed to construct facilities with downgraded power — from 100 kW to approximately 30 kW — and to operate at reduced power under special temporary authority pending completion of the downgrade.
It also was required to post a public notice of blanketing interference on its website explaining how people being affected could seek help. The announcement read in part: “KOKS/CEB has a financial and technical responsibility to resolve any blanketing interference to radio and television reception, experienced by the public, due to our new transmitter. All issues/problem will be reported to the FCC immediately.”
The FCC noted that the station repainted its tower and took corrective action to address tower lighting and marking deficiencies during the probationary period.
CEB reported some issues of non-compliance during the period, all concerning late filings, according to the commission. “For example, CEB was late in reporting that it operated at reduced power for 12 days from Feb. 11–23, 2021, when the tower froze in an ice storm,” the FCC stated.
In granting the license renewal, the FCC denied an objection from Doris Smith, a resident of the Poplar Bluff community. She complained that CEB had not reimbursed her for years of satellite service she obtained while KOKS was causing interference to her TV signal. She also worried that any new owners of the station in the future could attempt to increase power again.
The FCC in rejecting Smith’s objection found the latter concern “speculative” and concluded that the “2020 consent decree did not add a cable/satellite TV reimbursement requirement.”
“We will not require CEB’s new management to reimburse Smith for the satellite service she obtained in response to blanketing interference under former management. It is certainly unfortunate that Smith experienced long-term interference, incurred satellite expenses, and that CEB did not reimburse as the Stewarts had proposed. Nevertheless, Smith is incorrect in her contention that reimbursement is a requirement of commission rules.”
The FCC noted that no complaints of blanketing interference has been reported by Smith or other station neighbors since 2017 when KOKS began operating at reduced power.
Going forward, CEB will need to file ongoing compliance reports in accordance with the consent decree and establish procedures for meeting commission filing deadlines even if unexpected emergencies arise, according to the FCC.
The decision was signed by Albert Shuldiner, chief of the Audio Division of the Media Bureau.