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No Luck for Omni Broadcasting in WTKP Appeal

The FCC Media Bureau won’t restore its license for the Florida station

Omni Broadcasting has failed to convince the FCC to restore the license of WTKP(FM) in Port St. Joe, Fla.

The FCC staff had decided last summer that the license for WTKP had expired after an extended period of unauthorized operation.

Omni subsequently appealed by filing a petition for reconsideration. Omni had hoped to sell the station to Divine Word Communications and had applied last March to do so.

In December Albert Shuldiner, chief of the Media Bureau’s Audio Division, denied the petition.

The case began in 2015 when the station began using an alternate tower site during a landlord dispute. The case eventually involved a series of STAs, CPs and other applications. At one point FCC field inspectors observed the station operating from a third, unauthorized location 40 miles away, though Omni had not sought authorization to do so.

It all led the commission to rule last summer that in 2016–17 WTKP had failed to operate from an authorized site for at least a consecutive 12-month period, meriting automatic license expiration, and that it had failed to respond fully to the FCC’s questions about the situation. 

Omni appealed and listed at least nine reasons that the decision should be reversed. Among them was that it had  simply been trying to keep the station on the air; that its failure to provide certain documentation was not grounds for dismissal; that operation from a third site could have been licensed if it had asked for an STA; that it can’t afford full-time engineering staff or legal counsel, which led to the unauthorized operation; and that dismissal was counter to the commission’s policy to support minority-owned stations.

But Shuldiner wasn’t having any of it. 

“We are not persuaded by Omni’s attempts to excuse its actions,” he wrote, and laid out why he was rejecting each of the Omni arguments. 

Among other things, he wrote that the original ruling “correctly concluded that Omni had operated from an unauthorized location for more than 12 months resulting in expiration of the license. … Omni admits that it operated from the unauthorized Site C location for over one year … Omni also acknowledges that it failed to seek STA to operate from Site C. Our analysis need not go any further. The commission has consistently applied section 312(g) to cancel licenses when the station has operated from an unauthorized site for more than 12 months.”

But he said Omni also had failed to provide evidence that its operation at Site C was due to factors beyond its control. He said that applicants are solely responsible for complying with the rules, regardless of whether they are represented by counsel. And he wrote that “minority status alone does not warrant reinstatement under the equity and fairness provision” of the rules. 

The FCC summary of Omni’s appeal and Shuldiner’s further explanations is here.

[Related: “FCC Gives Birach AM Another Chance“]

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