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FCC Rules Against Ohio Companies in NCE Filing Cap Case

Action was prompted by an anonymous petition.

Ten applications for noncom educational FMs in various states have been dismissed by the FCC in a case involving two separate but related organizations in Ohio.

Spirit Communications and The Helpline each filed 10 applications in last fall’s noncom filing window. The FCC then received an anonymous petition alleging that Helpline had been created by Spirit to “deliberately circumvent” a cap of 10 applications.

Helpline told the FCC that the two organizations do not have common directors. But the Audio Division of the Media Bureau now has ruled that Helpline’s applications should still be attributed to Spirit. Though the groups have had separate boards and officers since just prior to their application filings, the FCC found that Spirit’s de facto control of Helpline continued, so the organizations could not apply for 10 each. Among other things it found that the new Helpline board consists of two Spirit employees and their spouses, and that Helpline has no employees of its own, relying upon Spirit employees to “volunteer” to perform basic functions.

The commission has dismissed the applications with the latest file numbers. It retained nine from Helpline and one from Spirit. Helpline’s application to construct a new NCE station at Hebron, Ind., also was granted.

Spirit and Helpline were established as separate corporations in the 1990s by John P. Shumate Sr., Kathy Shumate and Karen Seidenschmidt, according to the commission. Spirit’s goal is to operate broadcast stations that encourage Christian values; Helpline was formed to respond to phone calls to Spirit’s first station from young listeners needing help. Spirit is licensee of WUFM(FM), Columbus, Ohio, and translator stations that operate as a network using the name RadioU.

The FCC also noted that unsigned, anonymous allegations don’t fulfill its requirements to be treated as petitions to deny or informal objections but said it can still consider information from such filings as part of its own inquiries into applications.