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Gomez Family Wins an NCE FM in Texas

But the church group faces a $20,000 fine for rules violations

A family-run church organization will be penalized $20,000 for violating application rules, but it will get a new NCE CP in Texas despite protests from another broadcaster.

It’s a messy case that involves questions of “who controlled what, and when,” as well as the FCC’s cap of 10 applications per entity for new NCE CPs.

Iglesia Jesucristo Es Mi Refugio Inc. was the “tentative selectee” among a group of mutually exclusive applicants for a station in the community of Quemado. IJR (its name translates to Jesus Christ Is My Refuge Church) is licensee of several low-power television stations that it uses “both as a revenue enhancement for the ministry and to spread the Gospel,” the FCC stated. Its principals are members of the Gomez family.

Radio Bilingue challenged the award of the station to IJR. It argued, among other things, that the family had set up two additional, sham organizations in order to get around the FCC’s limit of 10 applications per entity. It also argued that IJR had failed to report a civil suit against it, as well as a 1988 misdemeanor drug conviction against Roberto Gomez.

Iglesia Jesucristo replied that the two new entities were legitimate and that there had been no intent to control more than 10 applications each. It countered Bilingue’s other allegations as well.

The Audio Division of the FCC Media Bureau now has ruled that IJR apparently did violate the rules by failing to update its applications after its principals took back control of the two organizations (and their combined 20 additional applications). The commission called this a serious violation that allowed IJR to continue to try to win applications to which it was not entitled.

“In addition to wasting commission resources, in several cases this failure resulted in entities under IJR’s control improperly obtaining construction permits for new NCE FM stations [in California, Texas, Washington state and Oklahoma] and, in at least one of these cases, another competing applicant was wrongfully denied a license that was awarded” to one of those two groups. “Moreover … these violations occurred with regard to all of IJR’s 10 applications, four of which are still pending,” and lasted for more than two years after IJR should have reported its control of the additional applications, the commission ruled.

But, the FCC also decided, Bilingue had not raised a substantial and material question concerning IJR’s qualifications to be a licensee in Quemado, Texas. It also said that despite his 1988 misdemeanor conviction, Roberto Gomez had not erred in filling out application paperwork because FCC Form 340 only asks about adverse findings over the past 10 years.

“Notwithstanding IJR’s violations of … the rules, we believe that the public interest, convenience and necessity would be served by a grant of IJR’s Quemado, Texas, application,” the FCC concluded. “While its violation is a serious one warranting the imposition of a proposed forfeiture and the dismissal of [the applications by the other two groups] and the IJR remaining pending Crosbytown, Hulldale, and Cuero, Texas applications, we do not believe the violation is disqualifying.”

In prior decisions, IJR failed to win new FMs for several Texas communities; but it won licenses in Encinal and Sulphur Springs, Texas. The FCC separately determined that the other two organizations were in fact controlled by the Gomez family members, so their own still-pending applications for new NCE FMs have been dismissed.

Read the complicated details here.