FCC Affirms AM’s Death, After Owner’s Death

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Until his death on January 25, 2011, Frank Rackley Jr. was the licensee of WNBN-AM in Meridian, Miss.


While he did have his troubles with the FCC regarding the station’s operation, this station’s problems escalated more than a year after his passing. That’s because disclosure to the Commission of Rackley’s passing was botched, resulting in the cancellation of the stations license.

Two individuals now in control of WNBN contested the FCC Media Bureau decision. But, they’ve lost another round in their quest to get the deleted AM back on the air.

On Oct. 1, 2019, Eddie Rackley Jr. and Jimmie Hopson filed an Application for Review seeking a Commission re-look at its denial of Rackley’s petition for reconsideration of the Media Bureau’s decision to deny WNBN’s license renewal.

The renewal didn’t occur because it wasn’t signed by the licensee.

This, of course, couldn’t happen as Frank Rackley Jr. is deceased.

Unfortunately, Eddie Rackley Jr. didn’t tell the Commission until the Feb. 10, 2012 license renewal applications for Mississippi’s radio stations were collectively due to the FCC.

According to the Commission, the Administrator filed the renewal application for the station under the licensee’s name, without any disclosure that the Licensee had died.

However, Eddie Rackley Jr. signed the documents not as an “Administrator,” but as a purported “Officer” of the licensee.

This is a problem, as the Commission’s rules require the filing of an application for involuntary assignment of license with the FCC within thirty days of the date of death.

“There is no evidence that the Administrator attempted to file any such application prior to
filing the Renewal Application,” the FCC says.

Nearly six years later, on December 7, 2017, and almost seven years after he was
required to submit the application, Eddie Rackley Jr. filed the necessary Form 316 application for consent to the involuntary assignment of license for WNBN from the
licensee to himself.

In probate court, the station was sold to Hopson, for $10,000.

Things then got worse for Eddie Rackley Jr. On April 19, 2018, the Media Bureau granted the Assignment Application authorizing the assignment to him. However, Eddie Rackley Jr. never submitted a notice of consummation for the Assignment Application.

Additionally, the parties never took the steps needed to obtain FCC approval for Hopson to become the licensee of WNBN.

“Specifically, neither [Eddie Rackley Jr.] nor Hopson ever submitted an assignment application for Hopson to be approved as the station’s new licensee,” the Media Bureau notes.

In fact, the Assignment Application listed one Eddie Holt as the Administrator’s contact
representative.

The Bureau’s staff specifically instructed Holt about the need to file an application for consent to assign the station’s license from Eddie Rackley Jr. to Hopson.

No such application was filed.

This put the wheels in motion at the Bureau to dismiss the WNBN renewal application as “defective,” as it was improperly filed in the licensee’s name without acknowledging his death.

That came on June 20, 2018; WNBN’s license effectively had expired by its own terms on June 1, 2012.

A petition for reconsideration came in July 2018, in which Eddie Rackley Jr. argued that another look was warranted “because he had not been represented by counsel and was unfamiliar with the rules and the Commission’s procedures.”

That argument was flatly rejected by the Commission.

Why the Application for Review?

As the Media Bureau sees it, Eddie Rackley Jr. argues for the first time that there was no intent to deceive the Commission, and introduces a claim that Hopson is a minority and an innocent party. Furthermore, efforts by Eddie Rackley Jr. and Hopson to negotiate a consent decree with the Bureau should have been continued to a conclusion that allowed the WNBN license to be renewed with Hopson as the new licensee.

The attempt to raise new matters to the FCC that were not previously given to the Media Bureau was unsuccessful.

“There was no basis for a consent decree that would allow the Administrator or Hopson to continue to operate the sation because the station’s license expired by its own terms on June 1, 2012 due to the defective Renewal Application,” the FCC flatly concluded.

The cancellation of WNBN was the final nail in the coffin of a facility that in 2008 was fined $1,500 for operating from the wrong coordinates and for failing to power down after sunset as required by FCC regulations.

An April 2008 RBR+TVBR report noted that Frank Rackley Jr. was aware that the station had strayed from its assigned coordinates and happened when a deal to set up a transmitter at the licensed coordinates fell through. As a result, Frank Rackley Jr. set up shop elsewhere in the area, avoiding the requirement to power down from 2.5 kW during the day to 330 watts after the sun is down. In fact, WNBN was habitually staying at 2.5 kW straight through to its 9PM sign-off.

The FCC initially assessed $8,000 in fines for the two uncontested infractions but lowered the financial penalty after reviewing Rackley’s finances.