FCC Denies Rural-to-Urban Station Contest

Submitted by Todd Urick on Tue, 04/14/2020 - 18:54

Modesto resident John Johnson filed Informal Objection over KCAI Linden, California, licensed to Educational Media Foundation, over the manipulation of the non-commercial educational facility's move of coverage area.  The facility was originally licensed to East Sonora, a rural foothills community.  EMF bought the station and moved the community of license and coverage to San Andreas, abandoning NCE secondary service population coverage.  Once licensed to San Andreas, EMF filed to change the community of license again to Lindon, a community next to the larger California city of Stockton.  After completion, EMF further opted to move the station into Stockton.  Mr. Johnson complained that the station, which is fed via satellite, for which EMF also owns multiple stations in the Stockton area playing identical content feeds, is an blatant abuse of the community of license change rules.  In fact, the former moves broke FCC policy on community of license moves. Johnson complains EMF did not demonstrate candor within the proposals to the FCC.

In it's decision, the FCC denied the Objection.  The FCC stated that the individual moves from community-to-community were spaced-out in duration, so they were not evading the major change rules.  Furthermore, the Objector should have filed objection upon EMF's original community of license change.

The FCC accepts no accountability in this situation to uphold Section 307(b) of the Communications Act, where the FCC is supposed to abide by policies that adhere to fair distribution of service (i.e., stations can't all be licensed in one area, or be moved out of rural areas if it is only one of two stations, or the only station, covering a community).  In such situations where the FCC made a wrong call several months to years back, it is difficult to unwind the original decision.  Furthermore, the FCC does not have any public interests regulations that specifically do not allow a licensee to hoard radio channels and rebroadcast the same audio content.

In this specific case, KCAI 89.3 FM's proposal would preempt KBCC's coverage into Stockton (89.5 FM), owned by community nonprofit Peace and Justice of Network of San Joaquin County.  The decision further erodes broadcast station localism.