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FCC Filing Gets Labeled “Chutzpah Doctrine”

Asks Pai: “Really?”

File this one under the “chutzpah doctrine.”

At least that’s the sense that Federal Communication Commissioner Ajit Pai walked away with after reviewing a recent application for review request by Marfa Public Radio. Marfa had asked the commission to reverse an earlier Media Bureau decision that gave Houston Christian Broadcasters the green light to construct a new noncommercial educational FM station at Alpine, Texas.

In that case, the bureau concluded that the Houston application was comparatively superior to that of Marfa for a new NCE FM station, and as such dismissed Marfa’s application. But Marfa returned to argue that Houston should actually be disqualified for several reasons, including lack of candor and misrepresentation, and for its failure to timely amend its application. According to Marfa, Houston allegedly failed for seven years to report that it had no assurance of the availability of its proposed transmitter site, since Marfa acquired that tower in 2008.

Here, Marfa said, is evidence of Houston’s lack of candor: Houston failed to report the nonavailability of the site back to Marfa.

But the commission turned the tables on Marfa, saying that it was actually Marfa’s failure to update the antenna registration — to name itself as the tower owner and to advise Houston of its decision not to make the tower available to it until filing its Petition to Deny over seven and a half years later — that was the issue.

As a result, the commission denied Marfa’s application for review. And that’s when Pai stepped up to say that this application for review runs afoul of the “chutzpah doctrine.”

Known for his levity and nods to pop culture, Pai included an official FCC footnote to a Saturday Night Live clip featuring Weekend Update actors Seth Myers and Amy Poehler performing the skit “Really?

“When Marfa Public Radio purchased a tower from Matinee Radio LLC, it waited approximately seven years before updating the commission’s antenna structure registration system to reflect this transfer of control. It also waited seven years before informing Houston Christian Broadcasters that it had purchased the tower and was revoking Matinee’s commitment to make the site available for Houston’s new FM station in Alpine, Texas. Now, Marfa complains that Houston failed to notify the commission within 30 days of Marfa’s purchase of the tower that Houston no longer had assurance that the tower would be available to it,” Pai wrote.

“Really?” he asked.