FCC denies LPFM application for pirate operations

Today, based on Informal Objections filed by Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, licensee of first adjacent channel WKZM, Sarasota, FL and LPFM applicant Palm Harbor Radio (who was subsequently granted the same channel 30 km away and is now licensed as WZIG-LP), the FCC has dismissed the application for WKMJ Radio Live The People Station, Inc. (Facility ID 194483, BNPL-20131107AAI) to serve Pinellas Park, FL.

In their objections, both Moody and Palm Harbor claim that the principal of WKMJ, Kervenson Joseph engaged in unlicensed broadcasting.  Both organizations included newspaper articles and internet links to demonstrate that WKMJ engaged in radio piracy.  The FCC has stated that the newspaper articles and internet links are not sufficient alone to demonstrate that WKMJ or Joseph engaged in unlicensed operation. 

The FCC did obtain a copy of the case report from the Pinellas Park Police Department which did state that about a week after filing the LPFM application, Joseph was arrested by the Pinellas Park Police Department and that the unlawful broadcasting activity took place at the address identified as the headquarters on the WKMJ application. 

The FCC dismissed the WKMJ application and has accepted the application for the County of Pinellas for filing. This application will be on a 30-day public notice for Petitions to Deny. 

The Radio Broadcast Protection Act included a provision that applicants who were involved in unlicensed operation are not eligible to be a party to a LPFM application.  This provision was overturned in 2001 by the US Court of Appeals in Rugierro v. FCC and in 2002 was subsequentally vacated.  The Local Community Radio Act of 2010 in section 2 upholds the disqualification of applicants engaging in unlicensed operation of a station from obtaining a LPFM license. In addition, the FCC Form 318 also requires applicants to certify that they are not involved in unlicensed operations which in this case, WKMJ certified to the FCC that they were not involved in such operations.

This is the first second generation (2013 window) LPFM application that we are aware of where unlicensed operation was the primary reason for the dismissal.  While unlicensed operation has been the subject of Informal Objections and Petitions to Deny in the past, the FCC had found other reasons to dismiss applicants without addressing this issue. In the third MX widnow, which is closing next week, an accusation of unlicensed operation has been brought up against East Coast Christian Center of Merritt Island, FL in MX Group #85.  Alleged radio piracy is also the subject of pending Petitions to Deny in the Littleton, NH (MX Group #242) and Orange/Passaic, NJ (MX Group #244) MX groups and is the subject of a Petition for Reconsideration filed against the grant of Urbanmedia One in Chicago in which a former MX competitor makes a claim of a pirate past.  

Enforcement and ability to prove cases of unauthorized operation is easier in Florida due to a state law that makes it a state felony to operate a pirate radio station in the state