The radio station licenses of a St. Louis, Mo.-based broadcaster may be in jeopardy.
The Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau has called for a hearing to determine if Entertainment Media Trust “committed serious violations of the Communications Act and the commission’s rules” and would thus have its four licenses cancelled. Dennis J. Watkins is listed as the trustee on this and other EMT-related commission documents.
The alleged violation stems from an assertion that EMT is actually controlled by a felon, who under the Communications Act and the commission’s rules is ineligible to hold these licenses. Robert S. “Bob” Romanik was convicted of obstruction of justice and bank fraud.
The commission was alerted to the issue when listener and former St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern filed a petition to deny EMT’s 2012 renewal applications for KFTK(AM), WQQW(AM), KZQZ(AM) and KQQZ(AM).
The Media Bureau then launched a multiyear investigation; it was recently completed and, according to the announcement, it unearthed evidence that Romanik established EMT, provided the funding to purchase the stations and “exercised de facto control,” despite not being listed as a party in the applications.
However, Romanik did identify himself as a station owner political disclosure forms, but indicated Katrina M. Sanders, his longtime girlfriend, was recipient of the stations’ beneficial interest. Romanik also was found in 2016 to have participated in negotiations for KFTK to enter into a local programming and marketing agreement with Emmis Radio.
While a trust instrument was executed in 2012, the investigation indicates that it did not properly insulate Romanik from the stations (and also was not created in a timely manner, since the stations were acquired between 2006 and 2010).
This is far from EMT’s first brush with the commission. For example, in September 2012, the FCC issued a notice of violation for WQQX(AM) — AKA KFTK — for several problems identified during an inspection. Other fines were levied in 2011 and 2013.
In addition to these offenses, Romanik is not one to shy away from controversy or the limelight. Much earlier in his career, Romanik was actually a police chief, and he is also known as Insane Broadcasting’s “The Grim Reaper of Radio” on one of the EMT stations, according to this fascinating albeit bizarre 2012 profile in the Riverfront Times. (The Grim Reaper lives on in podcast form, in case you’re interested.) In another write up, the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expressed dismay at Romanik’s play for an Illinois state Senate seat.
Radio World reached out to Entertainment Media Trust via Insane Broadcasting and phone numbers listed on station websites, as well as the number listed for trustee Watkins. However, no one was available to comment as of writing.