What it comes to the FCC’s toolkit of punitive actions against erring broadcasters, license revocation is the nuclear option, and it is not seen very often. But the Federal Communications Commission says it will revoke the license of Roger Wahl, who owns an FM station in Pennsylvania southeast of Pittsburgh.
Wahl pleaded guilty in 2020 to several crimes including secretly taking nude photos of a woman and impersonating her online.
The license of WQZS, a Class A FM on 93.3 in Meyersdale, will be revoked unless Wahl files for reconsideration or review within 30 days. The FCC has decided that Wahl lacks the character qualifications to be or remain a commission licensee.
His application to transfer the license to his daughter will be dismissed.
According to the FCC case summary, Wahl admitted in court that he secretly took nude photos of a woman inside her home using a concealed camera; impersonated her on an online dating site; sent the nude photos to at least one person, posing as her; and solicited that person to have sex with her. He also deleted the photos and relevant messages when he found out that state police were investigating.
He pled guilty to criminal use of a communication facility, which is a third-degree felony, and four related misdemeanors. He received concurrent sentences that effectively placed him on probation for three years, with four months of electronic monitoring.
The Media Bureau then started the process to determine if his license should be revoked. Administrative Law Judge Jane Hinckley Halprin conducted a hearing into his qualifications to be a licensee.
Wahl chose to represent himself. The FCC said Halprin “repeatedly excused procedural deficiencies and took pains to explain to Mr. Wahl his responsibility to respond fully to the Enforcement Bureau’s discovery requests” and to orders from the judge. The commission said Wahl repeatedly failed to comply with his hearing obligations. Ultimately the administrative law judge determined that Wahl was not participating meaningfully and had waived his right to a hearing to demonstrate that he was qualified to remain a station licensee.
Now the Enforcement Bureau has issued its revocation notice, saying “his conduct was adjudicated to be entirely willful, comprising a sequence of acts performed over time and calculated to harm his victim. The court in the criminal case acknowledged the seriousness of these acts. And even though Mr. Wahl has typically complied with FCC rules and policies, the record reflects no efforts by Mr. Wahl to remedy these wrongs. As fewer than three years have passed since his convictions, the commission cannot hold that his character has been rehabilitated.”
The order was issued by Loyaan A. Egal, chief of the Enforcement Bureau.