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Procedure, Timing Are Issues in FM Translator Battle

A case of “she said/he said” is playing out over the fate of five construction permits for FM translator stations.

A case of “she said/he said” is playing out over the fate of five construction permits for FM translator stations. The outcome, at least so far, is bad for Powell Meredith Communications Company, which last week lost an objection it had filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

In March 2014, the commission’s Media Bureauapproved a joint application to assign CPs for the translators from Powell Meredith to Community Translator Network. The permits are in rural areas in California, New Mexico, Utah, Oregon and Wyoming.

Somewhere in there, things started to really go sour between the companies. Approximately a month after the application was granted, Powell Meredith President Amy Meredith filed a petition to deny, saying that a translator in Ruidoso, N.M., had been added erroneously to the list of translators to be transferred. Soon after, Powell Meredith filed a petition for reconsideration to challenge assignment of all the translator CPs.

In several lengthy communications filed with the petitions, Meredith recounted several grievances with Community Translator Network, alleging that Meredith’s personal FCC registration number was used improperly to gather information, that an unauthorized individual had falsely represented himself as the Powell Meredith account representative on the applications and that Meredith’s signature had been forged on a document.

In turn, Community Translator Network filed an opposition statement saying that Powell Meredith had breached the original assignment contract. An attorney for the company said replies by Powell Meredith to the commission are “painfully lacking in truthfulness and coherence” and that Amy Meredith should be “sanctioned by the FCC” for misconduct.

Meredith responded that FM translators were stolen out of the Powell Meredith FRN account and accused Community Translator Network of permit tracking for profit.

Yet despite the heated back and forth — including ongoing references to an alleged forged power-of-attorney claim and alleged theft of Powell Meredith’s FCC log-in passwords — the Media Bureau’s decision came down to a matter of timing.

It ruled that Powell Meredith’s initial petition was untimely, saying the company had failed to object to the applications prior to the grant and had not shown good cause for failure to participate earlier as required by the rules.

Meredith argued in a filing that she had, in fact, properly objected to the applications prior to their grant, and attached a letter as proof. But the document, the FCC said last week, appears to be a cover letter for an objection; it does not include the actual objection nor was there a date-stamped copy of the letter.

“Meredith has not produced any evidence to support her allegation that the commission received the letter or the objection prior to acting upon the applications,” the FCC states. The commission says it can find no record of the letter or the objection in the its database or Reference Information Center. “Thus, we find that Meredith has not demonstrated that she participated in this proceeding prior to grant of the applications.”

In its request for review, Meredith had also laid out two new arguments: first, that the Media Bureau’s staff’s actions were influenced by gender discrimination; and second, that the applications should not have been processed because Powell Meredith Communications’ account with the commission was in red light status due to unpaid filing fees. But those arguments are “impermissible” under the commission’s rules because Meredith did not raise them to the Media Bureau, the FCC wrote. It did not take up the gender or fee issues directly.

As a result, the commission has denied the application for review from Powell Meredith Communications, leaving the five translators in the hands of the Community Translator Network.