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FCC Says No to Appeal for a New AM in L.A.

Schwab Multimedia has been trying to build at 1500 kHz in Culver City

Schwab Multimedia has lost an appeal to the Federal Communications Commission in a case involving a planned AM station near Los Angeles for which it had a construction permit.

This is a “tolling” case, one that involves the FCC construction clock. The history is complex — the FCC’s summary is 2,500 words long, not counting many extended footnotes — but the upshot is that KWIF in Culver City was never built and, barring further developments, apparently will not be. Its call sign has now been deleted.

Levine/Schwab Partnership, which does business as Schwab Multimedia, had applied in 2004 to build a new AM station in the Los Angeles area. It eventually secured a CP in 2016 for the station at 1500 kHz.

That CP was challenged by the owner of another station, KSPA in Ontario, Calif., which is on a first-adjacent channel in the same market. KSPA since was sold, but the new owner has continued to fight KWIF.

Construction of KWIF didn’t get off the ground. Schwab submitted multiple “tolling” requests, asking for more time to build. Its reasons included the pandemic — it said a shelter-in-place order in California made it impossible for vendors to start work — as well as KSPA objections and, later, smoke from California wildfires.

And in the course of events, the original tower site became unavailable, the timing of which is part of the case complexity. In October 2020 Schwab asked to modify its CP because it had lost access to the site, which is now used by KABC; it proposed a site in Montecito Heights instead (formerly used by AM station KIIS). Schwab also sought to document its earlier efforts to construct.

But the FCC dismissed or denied Schwab’s various requests for various reasons. Schwab then filed an application for review.

The Media Bureau now has rejected that appeal on the grounds that the main cause of the construction delay was the loss of the original site, which the FCC said is not a circumstance that qualifies for tolling.

But it also addressed Schwab’s pandemic-related arguments “in the interest of a complete record.” It said it also denied the review on the “alternative and independent grounds” that Schwab did not provide adequate evidence to support its claims that the pandemic was the cause of its failure to construct; and it said there were other issues with Schwab’s filings too.

“[T]he commission has determined that a three-year construction period provides ample opportunity for permittees to overcome unanticipated difficulties, including siting issues. Schwab does not claim that the pandemic caused its years-long site availability issues or explain how the pandemic could have disrupted construction, equipment delivery or arrival of crews at the original site at a time when Schwab no longer had the site owner’s permission to build there,” the FCC wrote.

It also laid out reasons for rejecting several other of Schwab’s arguments. For instance: “The commission has long held that permittees that seek additional construction time following a disaster must establish a material nexus between the disaster and failure to construct … Schwab did not adequately meet that burden.” It also said Schwab cited the shelter-in-place restrictions without acknowledging that communications facilities are exempt from those requirements.

Schwab made other arguments, all of which the commission rejected. The FCC’s detailed description is available here. In short the commission has denied the application for review from Schwab, dismissed its application to modify the unbuilt facilities of KWIF and deleted the call sign because the CP has expired.

A representative of Schwab Multimedia declined comment to Radio World.