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Georgia FM Won at Auction Can Proceed

“Vaguely stated suspicions” aren’t enough for the FCC to disqualify a license applicant.

“Vaguely stated suspicions” aren’t enough for the FCC to disqualify a license applicant.

So says commission staff in rejecting a petition to deny that had been filed by Coosa Valley News. It wanted to stop the application of Howard C. Toole for an FM CP in Plainville, Ga.

Toole was winning bidder for the permit in an FM broadcast auction. He also is GM of five other stations in Georgia, licensed to several corporations owned by Paul C. Stone.

CVN too had wanted a shot at the Plainville permit; but when Auction 70 closed last March, Toole was the winning bidder.

“CVN appears primarily to raise a question as to whether Toole was in fact an independent applicant or was, instead, acting for an undisclosed real party in interest, namely Stone,” the FCC wrote. “Specifically, CVN speculates whether Stone, as Toole’s employer, is using Toole’s application to cement ‘its dominant position within the Rome (Georgia) radio market.’”

The commission said the allegations took the form “of numerous hearsay statements (or, in some cases, hearsay-on-hearsay statements).” It said many statements were attributed to unnamed employees of CVN or other entities and that the statements “are themselves impermissibly vague.”

If there were undisclosed parties behind the application, the FCC said, or if Toole had misrepresented his eligibility, it would be a problem; but it finds the allegations in the petition “fatally vague and … not, as required, supported by the affidavit of a person with actual knowledge.”

The fact that Toole works as GM for certain Southern Broadcasting stations also does not contradict his identification as a “sole proprietor,” the FCC ruled, nor does it by itself raise an inference that he was acting for his employer.