European Nationals Press FCC on Ownership

Couple seeks 100% ownership of N.Y. station, triggering Communications Act regulations
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What will the FCC’s stance be on the request from a pair of British and Polish expats to amend the Federal Communication Commission’s foreign station ownership rules?

That’s what the company Border Media is hoping to find out. The licensee filed a petition with the commission asking that the FCC allow it to acquire a 100% voting and equity interest in Border Media Licenses, which is the proposed new licensee of FM station WRGR in Tupper Lake, N.Y. At the same time, the current owner of Radio Lake Placid is looking to transfer control of its ownership in WRGR to BML.

Border Media is owned by two foreign members: Ricki Lee Shorthose, a British citizen, and Hanna Kaleta, a citizen of Poland. The two say that granting this petition would serve the public interest for several reasons: it would encourage foreign investment in the area, it would promote ownership diversity and it would allow for continued broadcast service to the small community of Tupper Lake, a village of 3,000 in the northeast corner of the state.

WRGR has been silent since January 2018, according to the FCC licensing database. The FCC granted the STA with the understanding that the station is not to remain silent for more than 180 days from Feb. 28, 2018. The license will automatically expire if broadcast operations do not resume by Jan. 28, 2019.

Border Media announced on the website www.lakefm.com that it plans to relaunch the station with a classic hits format and rebrand it as “Lake FM: The Tri-Lakes Greatest Hits.” A station with that same moniker is currently live streaming at www.lakefm.com.

In the petition, BML noted that managing member Shorthose has been working in various aspects of the radio business for nearly 18 years, and moved with his wife, Kaleta, to New York in 2015 to grow an audio tech company’s North American business. In December of last year, the two co-founded BML for the purpose of investing in one or more U.S. broadcast stations, the petition said.

In the application, the two maintain that they have been model residents of the U.S. for the past three years, and would not generate any national security concern or pose any threat to the U.S.

FCC Grants 100% Foreign Control of U.S. Broadcast Group

In the group’s petition, the two noted that the Communications Act’s foreign ownership restrictions were originally conceived to address homeland security interests during wartime. “It is obvious that allowing two European citizens — who have been model residents of the United States for the past three years and who have been involved in the radio business — to own a small, struggling U.S. FM radio station would not implicate any homeland security concerns,” the petition said.

The Communications Act currently establishes a 25% benchmark for foreign investment in U.S.-organized entities that control a U.S. broadcast license. Licensees must obtain FCC approval before foreign ownership exceeds 25%.

The FCC is asking for public comment on the filing by April 5, with secondary replies due on April 20. Commenters can submit a comment using Media Bureau Docket No. 18-66 via the commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System or via a paper copy.

The FCC is asking for interested parties to raise all issues or concerns in their initial filings, and not raise new issues in responses or replies.

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