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Time-Share LPFM Can Change Hands

FCC says a ‘prior consent’ agreement is unenforceable

An Ohio LPFM has changed hands, after the FCC rejected an argument from another time-share participant that the agreement was improper.

Simply Living wanted to assign WCRS(LP) in Groveport and Columbus, Ohio, to another organization, the Neighborhood Network. But Bexley Public Radio Foundation, which is part of a time-share agreement with Simply Living, fought that move.

Bexley said the Neighborhood Network had not made arrangements with it; that the change would violate rules about how a time-share station may be reassigned; and that the change would not be in the public interest.

The Audio Division of the FCC Media Bureau now says the rule cited by Bexley isn’t applicable, and that Simply Living and the Neighborhood Network are not required to submit a revised time share agreement or to obtain Bexley’s consent to the change of license. “An LPFM share-time license may assign its license to a qualified licensee.”

A key argument was that the transfer would violate the time-share agreement, which prohibits one party from assigning its interest without prior written consent of the others; the FCC staff ruled that this put an improper limitation on Simply Living’s right to make a core operational decision, and that the prior consent language was unenforceable.

The FCC also rejected the argument that the new licensee would be free of obligations. “Upon becoming licensee of the station, [the Neighborhood Network] would be bound to the terms of the time share agreement in the same manner as is Simply Living,” the commission stated.

It also said no to an objection from broadcast consultant John Anderson, who argued in part that that the Neighborhood Network appears to have exerted premature “operational control” because the station sits on property owned by a Neighborhood Network board member and its volunteers “currently seem to control all aspects of the station’s operations.” The FCC described his allegations as “highly speculative and unsupported.”