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FCC Again Rejects Royce Licensing Petition

A 20-year battle over the license assignment of KUDL in Sacramento

Seems the answer is still no.

The Federal Communications Commission has upheld an earlier decision about the fate of KUDL(FM) in Sacramento, Calif.

The decision is the latest in a long-running battle that began in 1996 when Entercom Communications entered into a preliminary agreement to acquire then-KWOD from Royce International Broadcasting for $25 million. Royce later said that the arrangement wasn’t binding, and disputed the validity of the agreement.

In April 2002, Royce was required to surrender the station to Entercom. From then on, actions began to fly back and forth: a stay of the court was ordered, a California appeals court ruled in Royce’s favor, a new application was submitted by Entercom, and a petition to deny was filed by Royce.

But the commission ruled that the original agreement was binding, and in 2003 the license was formally reassigned from Royce to Entercom.

But the battle wasn’t over. In 2005, Royce argued that the transfer of the license to Entercom violated the commission’s own local radio ownership rules adopted in June 2003.

While the case was being reviewed at the commission, Royce filed an informal objection in 2007 in a case unrelated to KUDL(FM) (which involved the transfer of a string of CBS-owned stations to Entercom). Royce laid out several serious claims, including that Entercom suffered from “financial indebtedness,” had yet to pay Royce “any part of the outstanding purchase price [of KUDL],” had repeatedly violated the commission’s indecency guidelines, and was allegedly responsible for the 2009 death of a participant in a water-drinking contest conducted by another Entercom station, KDND(FM), in Sacramento.

Then, nearly 10 years after the 2005 Application for Review was filed by Royce, the commission had an answer: the decision stands. The commission affirmed the original decision made in 2003 and said that Entercom’s 2003 application met proper grandfathering provisions. Therefore, new local radio ownership rules did not apply to Entercom’s application.

In October of last year, Royce stepped forward once again to file a Petition for Reconsideration on that 2015 decision. In this instance, Royce said the commission violated sections of the Communications Act and the Administrative Procedure Act because, among other arguments, it took the commission almost 10 years to rule on its original Application for Review. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” Royce argued in its filing. Royce also says several of its arguments were subsumed due to new processing guidelines, and that the commission erred in rejecting three of Royce’s arguments regarding multiple ownership rules.

Throughout this battle, Royce has argued for the same result: that the KUDL(FM) license should be rescinded from Entercom and returned to Royce.

But the commission was not swayed, even on the “justice delayed is justice denied” argument. Delving into nitty-gritty aspects of Communications Act guidelines, the commission said that Section 155(d) of the act does not, in fact, mandate commission action within three months, as Royce argued.

On Jan. 19, the commission dismissed Royce’s most recent petition.