FCC nails KOMJ with $17,000 fine


FCCCochise Broadcasting, owner of Omaha AM KOMJ 1490 has been fined $17,000 by the FCC for failing to operate and staff a main studio with a public inspection file. Wyoming-based Cochise was ordered to pay the fine after the FCC last year filed an enforcement action, saying it tried and failed to locate the studio and the owner’s head office.

KOMJ, “Magic 1490…The height of relaxation,” plays commercial-free popular music, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s. There are no disc jockeys and only occasional taped station promos.

Cochise, the FCC said in a filing last month, “willfully and repeatedly violated the commission’s rules by failing to maintain and staff a main studio, and make available the station’s public inspection file.”

The FCC filing last month said Cochise had until 3/20 to file a statement saying it has established a studio and public inspection file for KOMJ.

In September, The Omaha World-Herald reported: “The ghost station of Omaha is a mysterious radio signal at 1490 AM — seemingly without owners, advertisers or disc jockeys — that plays a continuous loop of Buddy Holly, Petula Clark and Bobby Darin, like a 1960s malt-shop jukebox stuffed with an endless supply of coins…The Federal Communications Commission admitted it was stumped in papers filed last month. The airwave regulator said in the filing that it could find neither the owners nor the studio…On August 1, 2013, an agent from the Kansas City Office attempted to inspect station KOMJ’s main studio, while the station was on the air,” an FCC enforcement report reads. “The station’s web-page contains no main studio address and only lists a local phone number, which transfers to voice mail for stations located in the state of Arizona. The station’s address of record is a mail box in the state of Wyoming.”

The saga took another twist when the FCC dug deeper into the studio location. The agency said it found an unnamed attorney who served as contact person for the station. The attorney, filings say, said the main studio is at 10714 Mockingbird Dr., Omaha.

The FCC investigated further, sending an inspector there.

“This location is the main studio for the Journal Broadcast Group stations in Omaha,” the report says. “The staff for the Journal Broadcast Group stations stated that station KOMJ’s main studio was not located at 10714 Mockingbird Dr. and that no one associated with station KOMJ worked at the location.”

Journal Broadcast Group sold to Cochise Broadcasting in 2007. The station at one time carried Lancers hockey games. KOMJ, the FCC said in its report, leases space at the Journal Broadcast studios, but does not broadcast from there.

Cochise’s Virginia lawyer, Anne Crump, told the Omaha World-Herald last week the company has filed a timely response to the FCC in which it reported a new main studio and public file location. She did not disclose the location.

“Our response also disputed that there had been public file violation, as the public file had always been present and available for in-person viewing,” she said.

According to the FCC filing last month, Cochise in 2007 and 2008 rented studio space from Omaha’s Journal Broadcast Group on Mockingbird Drive. That agreement lapsed, the filing said, to include only some storage space for Cochise files.

“Journal neither provides nor shares any emergency alert system or other technical equipment with Cochise,” the filing says. “Journal agreed to provide reception service at the front desk of Journal’s Mockingbird Drive facilities. … However, Journal does not provide and has never provided any staff or manager to Cochise and no Journal staff or managers are subject to any direction or control by Cochise.”

Cochise owner Ted Tucker told The World-Herald last year that he responded to the initial FCC inquiries and that he would not comment further. According to news reports from Arizona, Tucker has developed a reputation as a music aficionado who has digitized a large record collection and who buys small stations, spruces them up and sometimes sells them for a large profit. One Cochise station sold for almost $20 million a few years ago.

See the Omaha World-Herald story here.

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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.