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Roger Wahl Asks FCC to Rescind Its License Revocation Order

The Pennsylvanian broadcaster hopes to remain a FM licensee

The owner of a Pennsylvania radio station is asking the FCC to pump the brakes on yanking his broadcast license.

A felony conviction led the FCC to revoke Roger Wahl’s license earlier this year. Now he is asking the commission to reopen the proceeding so that he can present further evidence in his defense.

Wahl owns WQZS, a class A FM on 93.3 in Meyersdale, Pa. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau found Wahl lacked the character qualifications to be or remain a commission licensee after he pleaded guilty to several crimes in 2020, including taking nude photos of a woman inside her home using a hidden camera. 

According to the FCC’s case summary, Wahl also admitted that he impersonated the woman on an online dating site; sent the nude photos to at least one person, posing as the woman; and solicited that person to have sex with the victim. 

In his plea to have the FCC reconsider its earlier decision, Wahl contends the FCC failed to meet its burden of proof showing his unfitness to be a broadcast licensee. Wahl asks for the revocation order to be vacated, and the case remanded to the Administrative Law Judge to enable him to “preserve this valuable license for service to the community.”

Wahl, who has operated his radio station since 1997, admits poor health caused him to miss multiple deadline filings throughout the FCC proceeding. However, he claims his community advocacy and public service fulfill the criteria to remain a broadcast licensee in good standing. 

“As shown herein, the isolated instance of adjudicated misconduct is an aberration in a life of exemplary public and community service. The felony convictions, however unfortunate, should not define Mr. Wahl or result in the loss of his radio station licenses to the community of Meyersdale,” according to the filing. 

[Related: “FCC Will Revoke Roger Wahl’s FM License“]

The FCC revoked Wahl’s broadcast license in April, which left him 30 days to appeal the commission’s findings. His application for review is dated May 12. An FCC spokesperson said the government agency doesn’t comment on ongoing proceedings. 

Wahl’s correspondence to the FCC discloses the 70-year-old didn’t do any jail time as the result of his convictions. “Mr. Wahl was sentenced to concurrent sentences that effectively placed him on probation, with four months of electronic monitoring, and required him to pay $600 in fines and the costs of his prosecution and supervision,” according to the letter. 

But the FCC made clear in its April ruling — which stripped Wahl of his broadcast license — that the commission was not convinced of his rehabilitation. 

Wahl, who unsuccessfully tried to transfer the license to his daughter during the course of the FCC proceeding, contends he has operated WQZS within the commission’s rules and has been a good steward of the license since 1997.

The letter states: “Mr. Wahl’s radio station has a record of compliance before the FCC. As shown herein, the isolated instance of adjudicated misconduct is an aberration in a life of exemplary public and community service. The felony convictions, however unfortunate, should not define Mr. Wahl or result in the loss of his radio station licenses to the community of Meyersdale.”

During the FCC proceeding, Administrative Law Judge Jane Hinckly Halprin found that Wahl was not participating meaningfully and waived his right to a hearing to demonstrate he was qualified to remain a station licensee.  

However, Wahl’s most recent letter lists a number of health issues that began in 2018, including fracturing his neck and developing congestive heart failure, which contributed to his inability to meet the judge’s deadlines. His health has improved, according to his attorney.

The former licensee has served on a wide variety of civic organizations, according to the letter, including as a member of the Meyersdale Hospital Board of Directors, the County Farm Bureau and former township supervisor for Larimer Township. He has also promoted numerous civic events within the station’s listening area, which is southeast of Pittsburgh.

In addition, several letters from members of the community testify to Wahl’s good moral character and community involvements and were submitted as part of his filing.

“The crimes of which Mr. Wahl was found guilty admittedly were not trivial. However, the 1990 Character Policy Statement is clear that not every felony is disqualifying,” according to Wahl’s appeal. 

The appeal letter, prepared by communications attorney Dan Alpert, concludes: “The goal of the commission’s Character Qualifications Policy is not to pass moral judgment on applicants but, instead, to determine whether the public interest will be served.

“The misdeeds of a licensee may indeed be relevant in gauging that person’s ability to serve the public interest as an FCC licensee, but in this particular case and under these particular circumstances, the evidence presented will not be found to satisfy the burden of proof.”

However, there is opposition to Wahl receiving a review. The American Militia Association (AMA), the only other radio broadcaster licensed by the commission to Meyersdale, Pa., takes issue with Wahl’s appeal. 

“The (Wahl) document in its entirety is merely an attempt to pause the clock on termination of the license or otherwise convince the commission to restart the entire process over again from the beginning as if it would have some magical propensity to alter the outcome completely void of any relevant specific claim or evidence to support such a request,” AMA commented in letter to the FCC.

The group, licensee of WHYU(FM), says the local and national exposure of the events have tarnished the image of broadcasters nationwide — where the majority of the public presumed that convicted felons would not be permitted to retain a broadcast license.

“Nor should they overlook that within days of his criminal convictions he attempted to dishonestly transfer the radio station license on paper tiger application for a token amount of just $10 and absent any verifiable instrument,” the American Militia Association states in its letter.

The group also alleges Wahl, despite his health crisis claims, operated and broadcasted his morning show for the majority of time between when the hearing designation order was issued until it had been terminated, and missed only a brief single month period in June of 2022.  

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