Declining to get into a discussion about formats, the FCC has cleared the way for La Promesa Foundation to buy historic KCOH(AM) in Houston.
The case is notable because Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. had objected to the 5,000-watt station at 1430 kHz changing hands and likely changing formats.
KCOH Inc. announced the sale late last year and asked the FCC to assign the license to Midland, Texas-based La Promesa Foundation, which plans to air religious programming from the Guadalupe Radio Network.
Lee and Jackson acknowledged that La Promesa is qualified to be an FCC licensee but concerned “about the potential disappearance” of the station’s existing Urban talk format, which has been aimed at Houston’s African-American community for 50+ years. They also expressed broader concerns about diversity of media ownership, an issue the commission is currently debating as part of its review of broadcast ownership rules.
In its decision to approve the sale, the Media Bureau said while it appreciates the station’s “programming has attracted a devoted listenership,” according to commission policy, the agency “does not scrutinize or regulate programming, nor does it take potential changes in programming formats into consideration in reviewing assignment applications,” in the decision signed by bureau chief Peter Doyle.
Moreover, the format and KCOH calls are moving to KQUE(AM) once La Promesa takes over 1430 kHz. The group will also use the historic KCOH studio and begin broadcasting the legacy programming on March 1, according to the commission.
The Houston Forward Times pegs the value of the KCOH sale at $2.7 million with La Promesa getting the three-tower array.
The bureau notes that Lee and Jackson’s concerns that many stations serving African-American audiences are struggling in this tough economy, and a lack of access to capital, contribute to this failure. The concerns are valid, however they go beyond the scope of this particular deal, noted Doyle in approving the sale and dismissing the objections.