The Presidents’ Day holiday and another snow storm on the East Coast slowed down low-power FM approvals significantly this last week. In fact, only one LPFM construction permit was issued, to Church in Jackson, Inc. in Jackson, MS.
The other LPFM news this week is not so happy. The Washingtonian reports that the urban-oriented broadcaster Radio One has petitioned the FCC to deny a license to WOOK-LP in Washington, DC, which was granted a construction permit last audience. According to the Washingtonian, Radio One bases its petition on the claim that WOOK–which plans to broadcast classic soul and R&B–"will compete with Radio One’s stations for listeners.”
Radio World’s Leslie Stimson digs a little deeper into the situation, noting that Radio One’s original petition filed in August questioned if the applicant for WOOK, a group called Sincere Seven, was a legitimate nonprofit when it applied for the license. The FCC rejected that petition, and Radio One followed up with a petition for reconsideration claiming that Sincere Seven intentionally failed to list a board member with a felony criminal record on its application. The Commission has not yet ruled on that one.
Unusually, a group with a construction permit for the neighboring town of Takoma Park, MD, also petitioned the FCC to resolve the situation quickly. Read Stimson’s whole article for more details.
I also read through the correspondence on WOOK’s application, and I did not find any arguments by Radio One about competition for listeners, as the Washingtonian reports. While that could be one of Radio One’s motives, it would never be a rationale which the FCC would accept, and both Radio One and the company’s attorneys should know this. As a rule, the Commission does not involve itself in resolving competition for listeners between licensed stations, and does not issue nor deny LPFM licenses based upon a station’s planned format, so long as it otherwise qualifies as noncommercial and educational under existing regulations.
This is an usual case, since most petitions to deny of this sort are filed by groups competing for a license. WOOK was actually a singleton application, with no competitors for its frequency, and the only LPFM approved for Washington, DC. So we’ll keep an eye on this one.