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Hearing Set to Determine Ohio AM License

Administrative law judge will decide whether or not to renew the license of mostly silent WJEH

Vandalia Media Partners is inching closer to receiving an answer on its whether its license renewal application will be granted or denied.

The Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commissioned announced that a status conference will be held virtually on April 28, at 10 a.m. as part of a hearing on renewing Vandalia’s license. Earlier this month the Media Bureau announced that an administrative law judge will work to determine whether or not to renew the license of AM radio station WJEH in Gallipolis, Ohio.

[Read: AM Station’s Spotty Operational Schedule Puts License at Risk]

The move is in light of the station’s minimal record of operation, the bureau said. Vandalia began broadcasting with the WJEH license on Dec. 31, 2019, and during its tenure as licensee (from December 2019 through 2020), the station was silent for 364 days and operated for two days at an authorized reduced power level of 100 W.

The Communications Act states that if a broadcasting station fails to transmit broadcast signals for any consecutive 12-month period, then the station license expires at the end of that period. This was set up by Congress to relieve the burden of conducting a drawn-out license renewal or revocation proceedings for stations that remain silent for extended periods of time.

The commission subsequently found that some licensees of silent stations respond by resuming operation for a short period of time — in some cases as short as a day — before the one-year-limit hits to prevent automatically license expiration. Others alternate between periods of silence and operations with minimal power levels that only cover a small portion of their service areas.

In cases such as these, the commission cautioned that “a licensee will face a very heavy burden in demonstrating that it has served the public interest where it has remained silent for most or all of the prior license term.”

The method for renewing an application is fairly straightforward. According to the FCC Rules, a renewal is granted if the bureau finds that the station met three key requirements: the station served the public interest, convenience and necessity; there have been no serious violations of the Communications Act of 1934 or FCC Rules; and there are no major violations that would constitute a pattern of abuse.

When these three tenets cannot be met, the renewal application is designated for a hearing. Because of the WJEH’s extended periods of silence and operation at significantly reduced power during its license term, the bureau was unable to find that grant of the renewal application is in the public interest.

A proposed schedule with next steps will be laid out during the virtual conference. The commission said that interested parties can share relevant documents and comments about this case through April 26 via the commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System.