Time has run out for a Florida broadcaster who saw its construction permit revoked and its call letters deleted after a series of weather delays and procedural errors.
Florida Community Radio was issued a construction permit with a three-year window to build station WRBD(FM) in 2015. But a series of storms and rule changes delayed that construction as FCR faced off against the effects of Hurricane Irma and the commission’s decision to eliminate the main studio rule for radio stations. FCR requested a six-month extension of the deadline, which was granted by the Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau. Before the end of that extension FCR applied to modify its permit to operate on a different tower. The bureau granted that request as well.
Then came Hurricane Michael in October 2018. FCR requested another extension based on the effects of the storm surge and flooding in Horseshoe Beach, Fla., where FCR planned to build its NCE station. The new extension deadline was moved to June 2019.
A third request came in April 2019 when FCR asked for additional time to perform an analysis of whether the station’s power lines should be underground as well as a structural analysis of the potential impact of a future Category 5 storm on the station’s antenna. Before handing out another extension, the Media Bureau asked FCR for information showing a direct connection between Hurricane Michael and the licensee’s inability to construct the station by the June 2019 deadline, but the Media Bureau said FCR did not provide any information.
As a result, the bureau denied FCR’s third request for an extension. The bureau also noted that the analyses that FCR wanted to perform could have been done well within the extended construction term.
FCR responded with a petition of reconsideration (which was denied) and an application for review (which was denied). In the application for review, the bureau rejected FCR’s new stance that argued that the new tower site was in a designated floodplain. The bureau also denied portions of the FCR petition that claimed that an additional extension was warranted. “We noted that FCR had not made any showing that Hurricane Michael continued to cause delays in construction, and that FCR had not made any construction progress,” the bureau said.
Advancing to 2020, the commission dismissed FCR’s latest petition based on procedural issues. The commission rules state that when the Media Bureau denies an application for review, the follow up petition for reconsideration will only be considered if the petition offers updated facts that relate to the event. The FCC said the arguments that FCR makes in its 2020 petition do not meet those requirements.
In its 2020 petition, FCR argued that the commission should establish longer extensions for permitees faced with back-to-back weather emergencies like the ones FCR faced with Hurricanes Irma and Michael. It also argued that the commission failed to establish adequate policies on increasing minority ownership of radio and TV stations.
But the FCC said that none of those arguments fall under the category of “circumstances which have changed,” which is what the FCC is looking for within a petition of reconsideration filing.
As a result, the commission dismissed FCR’s petition for reconsideration and updated its records to reflect that the construction permit for WRBD has now officially expired.