For several years, Don McCoy has been a colorful owner of broadcast radio stations and in the early 2000s entered Los Angeles with the purchase of KDAY-FM 93.5, now a part of Meruelo Media.
Today, his focus is on the hurricane-battered faded Spring Break capital of Panama City Beach, Fla., where the heritage Top 40 station is one of four properties serving Bay County under his ownership.
That Top 40 station has now run afoul of some FCC rules, as has a sibling FM talker. To resolve the matter, McCoy’s Magic Broadcasting II has entered into a hefty Consent Decree that absolves the licensee of some pretty egregious lapses in judgment.
In an Order released late Thursday (Dec. 3) by Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold, the FCC and McCoy agreed to a consent decree that resolves two investigations into the licensees conduct, specifically at its Talk WVFT-FM 93.3 in Gretna, Fla., and at hit music-powered WILN-FM “Island 106” in Panama City.
The problems for McCoy began when the Enforcement Bureau’s Office of the Field Director investigated whether Magic Broadcasting violated section 303(q) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and sections 17.47(a)(1), 17.48, and 17.57 of the Commission’s rules by failing to conduct the required daily inspection of an antenna structure’s lighting system, by failing to notify the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about a lighting failure, and by failing to register Magic Broadcasting’s acquisition of an antenna structure with the FCC.
On September 3, 2019, the Bureau received an anonymous field complaint that the antenna structure had not been properly lit for more than a year. The following day, an agent from the Enforcement Bureau’s Miami Field Office made the trek up to the Panhandle and began to investigate the matter. The agent initially determined that the then-
registrant of the antenna structure was no longer in business.
In researching the current ownership of the structure, the agent determined that WVFT was licensed to operate from the station, leading to chats with the station manager and eventually Magic Broadcasting II’s legal counsel, Matthew McCormick of Fletcher Heald & Hildreth. Through those communications, Magic Broadcasting admitted to the rule violations tied to the WVFT tower.
FAKE CONTEST WINNERS
If that’s not worrisome enough, Island 106 was also subject to a concurrent Enforcement Bureau Investigations and Hearings Division (IHD) investigation into whether Magic Broadcasting violated section 508 of the Act and sections 73.1216 and 73.1208 of the Commission’s rules by failing to conduct two broadcast contests “in a manner substantially as announced by pre-selecting the winners in those contests, and by failing to disclose that programming broadcast over Island 106 during a supposedly live call-in contest was pre-
The complaints date to September and October 2018, with two contests — a “Troll Tracker” and the “Alexa Almighty” — coming into question. For the Alexa-flavored competition, the investigation found that Island 106 personnel recorded fake telephone calls with individuals posing as contest participants and aired the previously recorded programming during the voice-tracked afternoon show.
Specifically, Magic Broadcasting offered callers the chance to win prizes if they called the Island 106 at designated times during the day. Complaints received by the FCC alleged that it was impossible for the station to have conducted the contest as advertised because there
was no live air personality on duty at the time the listeners were asked to call in.
Instead, Island 106 allegedly aired pre-recorded calls between station employees and their friends, posing as contest participants.
Details of the “Troll Tracker” contest were provided in a footnote within the Order. “The Troll Tracker contest was conducted as though it were a scavenger hunt,” Harold explained. Suspicions arose when “a female listener solved the puzzle earlier than anticipated, thereby circumventing the station’s desired goal of enhancing its broadcast listenership through a protracted competition.”
To resolve the dilemma, Island 106 staff allegedly had both the female listener and her boyfriend sign non-disclosure agreements as the station fraudulently continued the contest — while secretly arranging for the first listener to ultimately win the contest.
The Enforcement Bureau acted on this information with a Letter of Inquiry, sent to Magic Broadcasting II in July 2019. On August 27, 2019, the licensee responded but did not admit any infraction; it has yet to do so.
“Although queried repeatedly on these matters, Magic Broadcasting would neither confirm
nor deny the veracity of the allegations … and maintains that it has no information ‘in its possession, custody, control, or knowledge’ indicating that the station broadcast the
pre-recorded programming,” Harold said.
To resolve the matter, Magic Broadcasting II admits to the violations, certifies that each antenna structure registered to it or from which it operates currently complies with part 17 of the Commission’s rules, and agreed to a civil penalty, with a $125,000 payment going to the U.S. Treasury.
Magic Broadcasting II will pay the civil penalty in 20 equal installments of $6,250.
The consent decree also includes a compliance plan.
“This action will promote aviation safety near antenna structures, advance the Commission’s longstanding goal of protecting the public from being deceived by broadcast contests, and serve as a reminder to the industry that the Commission remains vigilant in its duty to ensure that licensees adhere to the Commission’s rules regarding representations whether broadcast programming is live or pre-recorded,” Harold said in the Order.
Copies of the order and consent decree were sent directly to McCoy and to McCormick.
FROM THE RADIO & RECORDS ARCHIVES:
In August 2005 RBR+TVBR Editor-in-Chief Adam R Jacobson covered the $120 million purchase by the former Styles Media Group of KDAY-FM and KDAI-FM in the Los Angeles and Riverside-San Bernardino markets, respectively, for R&R. McCoy was a lead partner in the acquisition.