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What’s in a Name? FCC Denies CP Applications Over Board Name Changes

Agency questions board changes, rejects explanations

The Federal Communications Commission doubled down on its decision to dismiss two applications for LPFM construction permits in Texas after an investigation found the licensees are associated with the consultant Antonio Cesar Guel.

The commission determined that amendments to these Guel-related applications — specifically relating to name changes — resulted in impermissible “major” changes to an application, which is against FCC rules.

It was back in 2014 that the FCC began an investigation into Antonio Cesar Guel with the Hispanic Christian Community Network after some applications prepared by him showed “irregularities” that “suggested potential violations and/or misrepresentations,” the FCC said. In the months since, the FCC has sent Letters of Inquiry to many applicants associated with Guel in order to determine the authenticity of applicants.

In this latest case, two organizations — Fort Worth Hispanic Community Church and Casa al Imigrante de Wichita Falls (Casa) — filed separate applications during a 2013 LPFM filing window in which Guel was listed as consultant and certifying engineer.

After the two submitted their applications, the FCC asked FWHCC and Casa for more details on the board members listed in the original application. The two organizations responded by first amending their application to reflect a new board composition and then answering the LOI with details on its newly amended board — but not for the board as composed at the time of its original application, the FCC said.

The reason given by the two groups? According to their filing with the FCC, incorrect names and addresses were submitted because the HCCN staff, “working under pressure for large numbers of customers,” confused applicant information while working from the same lists. FWHCC told the FCC it was amending its application to reflect the replacement of one of its three directors and to make corrections to other names and addresses; Casa said much the same.

When the Media Bureau set about considering the applications, it determined that Casa and FWHCC’s March amendments reflected impermissible major changes. FCC rules require an applicant’s original parties to retain more than a 50% ownership interest in the application. And although each applicant claimed to have replaced only one of its board members, the names of all of its board members were changed in the amendments, the FCC said.

The Media Bureau, therefore, dismissed the applications.

The applicants disagreed with the decision and filed a Petition for Reconsideration. The groups argued that the bureau should reinstate their applications because it incorrectly applied application processing procedures and because the new applicants are, in some cases, the same applicants, just with different name variations.

The FCC disagreed. Under FCC rules, an LPFM applicant can make minor changes at any time, but a major change outside of a filing window will result in dismissal. In this case, the two engaged in a major change because the original parties to the application did not retain an ownership interest exceeding 50%.

Plus, the FCC also questioned the applicants’ claim that the amended application actually lists the same persons as the original application. In the case of FWHCC’s application, for example, the FCC said that there is not enough evidence that board member Zeus Alvarez (listed on the original application) and board member Carlos Alvarez (on the amended application) are the same person.

As a result, the commission denied the groups’ request that the applications be reinstated.