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Petition Doesn’t Compel FCC to Restore Deleted Call Sign

Twelve months of silence at Modesto LPFM led to expired license, commission says

We’re no lawyers here at Radio World; but it seems clear that the lesson of this particular incident is that even the smallest FM station operators need to have a firm grasp of FCC rules and procedures — or risk losing their stations.

A deleted call sign and expired license will not be reinstated by the Media Bureau despite a licensee’s petition for reconsideration. The Modesto Graffiti Radio Project, former licensee of LPFM station KXOK in Modesto, Calif., saw its license expire and call sign deleted after it remained silent for more than a year.

In February 2014, Modesto filed a request with the Federal Communications Commission for special temporary authorization to remain silent, indicating that the station — which had received a license for a 100W LPFM station a decade earlier — had ceased operations the month before. This came after a dispute with its landlord, who apparently locked the door and barred entry to the licensee.

The bureau granted that STA but with a warning that the station’s license would expire automatically if broadcast operations did not resume by Jan. 11, 2015. A few days before the deadline, the station filed a resumption notice stating that on Jan. 3, it had “returned to air with auxiliary 10W transmitter from temporary antenna site in Modesto, Calif.” In June of last year, Modesto again requested an STA to remain silent due to “technical issues at our transmitter site.” Due to difficulties in obtaining replacement equipment, the group said, it would not likely return to the air until July 8, 2015. The commission again granted the request.

But something funny appeared in the resumption notice: The station looked to be operating with lower power than was specified by its license, and at an unauthorized transmitter site. Two complaints also were filed by Dr. Bernardo Mora of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Modesto in March and June of last year, indicating that he was monitoring the station’s operation and had not detected any transmissions since January of 2014.The validity of these complaints subsequently was contested by Modesto.

Then a bit of Whac-a-Mole seemed to be going on. Modesto said the station had returned to the air nearly a month earlier than indicated in the resumption notice and was operating from a different location. There was also miscommunication about the operation of the Modesto transmitter, which the owner, David Jackson, misunderstood to be operating at reduced power (apparently 10 percent less) which he had understood to mean 10W. Jackson also balked at providing documentation to the commission to prove it resumed operation on Jan. 3.

In a petition to the FCC, Jackson acknowledged that his lack of experience in dealing with the commission was a “clear disadvantage” but claimed that he “did everything possible to meet every legally mandated requirement.”

The FCC was not mollified. It said Modesto failed to provide evidence that the station operated between Jan. 10, 2014 and Jan. 11, 2015; nor did it clearly define the location of the licensed site. It also failed to raise any new or previously unknown facts that would cause the commission to warrant reconsideration.

As a result, the Media Bureau dismissed and denied Modesto’s petition for reconsideration, and the call sign remains deleted, with the dreaded “D” added: DKXOK-LP.