The associate general counsel’s office at the Federal Communications Commission has admonished Cumulus Licensing for an infraction — but didn’t go so far as one licensee wanted by dismissing a pending station renewal application.
The brouhaha began when the Media Bureau ordered Cumulus FM translator station W255CJ, also known as 99X, to cease operation. The FCC received complaints from licensee WKNG LLC — which is licensee of FM station WWGA in Tallapoosa, Ga. — that the translator was causing interference to its FM station WWGA.
The trouble began in earnest, WKNG said, when Cumulus posted a notice on its website asking listeners to directly email the five FCC commissioners to help 99X, which had ceased broadcasting. That, WKNG said, is an unlawful action and violates the commission’s rules stating that licensees cannot improperly solicit ex parte presentations. WKNG also complained that emails gathered by Cumulus from its listeners were not passed on to them until after they complained.
Specifically, that section of the rules state that “no person shall solicit or encourage others to make any improper presentation under the provisions of this section.” Ex parte presentations are prohibited in restricted proceedings — including emails not served on all parties to a proceeding.
WKNG argued that Cumulus’ conduct deserves more than an admonition. It urged the commission to dismiss Cumulus’ pending renewal application for 99X.
Cumulus defended itself to the commission, saying that its website posting should not be regarded as a solicitation because it merely provided information to listeners about the termination of 99X and that it planned to send copies of any emails it received to WKNG.
The commission agreed with WKNG that Cumulus violated ex parte rules, saying that emails sent to FCC commissioners and their legal advisors were prohibited presentations. But it found there was no reason to consider dismissing Cumulus’ renewal application. The renewal application and the interference complaint represent two different proceedings.
Nor does the case merit the FCC to impose a monetary forfeiture on Cumulus, the associate general counsel office said.
“While we admonish Cumulus for its violation of the ex parte rules here, we see no basis for issuing an order to show cause why Cumulus’s renewal application should not be dismissed,” wrote Linda L. Oliver, a chief within the Associate General Counsel office.