To the west of Fresno is the small town of Firebaugh, Calif., nestled along the San Joaquin River. It’s the city of license for a noncommercial FM with 900 watts of power that had been emulating legendary Top 40 KYA, airing an Oldies format.
Travel 67 miles south to Avenal, Calif., and you’ll find the tower for another silent FM, a 920-watt facility.
Both FM stations have now been ordered by Media Bureau Audio Division Chief Al Shuldiner to cease broadcast operations immediately.
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Modification applications were filed by Avenal Educational Services on behalf of KAAX-FM in Avenal, Calif., and by Central Valley Educational Services on behalf of KYAF-FM in Firebaugh requesting a change in status from noncommercial to commercial broadcasting.
License applications were then filed, reflecting Construction Permits for each facility.
However, Avenal and Central Valley were not incorporated prior to filing for their station authorizations. As such, the Audio Division dismissed both the modification and license applications.
This put the wheels in the motion on revoking the broadcast authority of KAAX and KYAF, and deleting each station’s call sign.
Further, the Audio Division found that the construction permits for KAAX and KYAF were improperly granted, and it dismissed them as defective.
KAAX and KYAF, formerly KAJP-FM, are two of six stations tied to William Zawila.
Zawila has been embroiled in a near two-decade-long matter that involves five licensees, each charged with lack of candor, misrepresentation, and unauthorized transfer of control. It is the latter charge that involves KAAX and KYAF.
In 2003, the stations associated with Zawila were slated for a revocation hearing. That didn’t happen, leading to a 2004 distress sale to the Alfredo Plascencia-led Lazer Broadcasting of Oxnard, Calif.
There was a snag, however. Applications for three stations — KNGS-FM 100.1 in Coalinga, KZPO-FM 103.3 in Lindsay and KZPE-FM 102.1 in Ford City, Calif. — were tossed as regulatory fees had not been paid for the three stations.
This killed the Lazer deal, and nothing happened until 2015, when Big Radio Pro sought to acquire them in a distress sale. That deal didn’t transpire because the distress sale policy had been discontinued.
Fast-forward to February 2020, when Media Bureau Chief Michelle Carey affirmed a August 2017 decision from former FCC Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard L. Sippel to revoke the authorizations for KNGS, KZPO & KZPE.
Now, death is near for the two remaining FMs tied to Zawila.
The key problem: Central Valley and Avenal filed their applications for construction permits in 1988 and 1989, respectively. Avenal and Central were not incorporated until 1999 and 2001.
Central Valley and Avenal were represented by Oakland, Calif.-based practitioner Michael Couzens.
Archival reporting by Carl Marcucci.