FCC Upholds Several Radio Rulings by Media Bureau

Commission addresses issues as diverse as an LMA waiver request, forfeiture of an AM license and the One Grant policy
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The Federal Communications Commission addressed a number of non-broadcast topics in its Nov. 19 meeting, from the need to strengthen wireless emergency alerts to improving the compatibility of mobile handsets with hearing aids. But as it often does, the commission also approved several radio items prior to the meeting.

It adopted these “consent agenda” items affecting stations in several states:

HAWAII
The commission turned its attention to the Aloha State to consider a Media Bureau decision in which one station out of a mutually exclusive group of 57 applications was awarded a new noncommercial FM station application. From that group of 57, the Media Bureau followed its policy of granting only one application per group of MX applications, and dismissed the other 56, known collectively as NCE MX Group 510. The application was awarded to Hawaii Public Radio (HPR) for an NCE in Kailua.

Several organizations within Group 510 — Wren Communications, Cedar Cove Broadcasting and Kanu O Ka Aina Learning Ohana — challenged the Media Bureau decision on several grounds.

For its part, Cedar argued that the HPR application should have been dismissed for failure to comply with Channel 6 TV requirements; but the commission found the Channel 6 station had terminated analog broadcasts prior to the approval of the HPR application.

The three organizations also urged the commission to reconsider its One Grant policy, which bars the grant of more than one application per group of mutually exclusive applications. In an earlier unrelated order, the commission concluded “that the One Grant policy would be preferable as the most ‘administratively efficient’ approach and one likely to lead to the selection of the best qualified applicants.” The commission denied the requests to waive the policy, saying concerns about it should be taken up in a formal notice and comment rulemaking proceeding. Now the FCC has voted to deny and dismiss those applications for review and confirmed the Media Bureau’s earlier decision.

GEORGIA
The commission also confirmed a Media Bureau decision involving the forfeiture of an AM station license in East Point, Ga.

Christian Broadcasting of East Point and Praise 95 sought review of a decision that the license of DWTJH(AM) had been forfeited. The Media Bureau had dismissed and denied a request to renew the station license and “after assign” that license to Praise 95, because the station’s license expired in November 2010.

A sequence of actions followed; a special temporary authorization was issued, subsequent re-applications were filed, informal objections were received, and Media Bureau inquiries were started after it was determined that the station had been using “non-conforming, unauthorized” broadcast facilities, according to the FCC order.

A year ago, the Media Bureau denied reconsideration of the application; now the commission affirmed the decision, saying “equity and fairness would not be served by reinstatement” of the license.

TEXAS
The full commission also confirmed a Media Bureau decision about DKTDK(FM) in Sanger, Texas.

In July 2013, Susquehanna Radio Corp., part of Cumulus Media, proposed to assign the station to Whitley Media, which would in turn sell it to North Texas Radio Group and another entity.

But shortly after that, Cumulus also announced that it had reached a long-term local marketing agreement to program KESN(FM) in Dallas. This would result in it having an attributable interest in nine radio stations, six of which were FMs in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market, in violation of the local radio ownership rules. (In that radio market, one entity may own or hold interests in up to eight radio stations, and no more than five of which can be in the same service.) As a result, Cumulus surrendered the DKTDK license for cancellation in September 2013.

In response, Whitley and North filed an assignment petition and license petition, saying that the assignment application should be reinstated and granted. They said this outcome would be in the public interest because it would advance the commission’s goal of localism, and local residents would retain a commercial station to serve their needs and interests, according to the order.

Whitley and North acknowledged that the move would give Cumulus interests in excess of local market caps, so they asked for a waiver so that the silent station could be quickly assigned to Whitley and continue to provide local service.

In its ruling, the FCC found that the two groups did not even have the standing to ask for reconsideration. Only those parties “whose interests are adversely affected” may petition for reconsideration, the rules state. “Whitley and North Texas have no rights with regard to the station’s license and therefore no interest which could be adversely affected by the surrender and cancellation of the station license,” the order said. As such, the commission dismissed the petitions.

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