Gulfport, Miss., is presently enjoying the South Mississippi Summer Fair, an event full of music and rides with a birds’ eye view of the Gulf of Mexico and sandy shores. It’s a diverse community, and for one FCC licensee the home of what was to be an FM translator tied to a famed Crescent City noncomm.
The FM translator, however, was built outside the parameters of what the licensee was authorized to do. That’s a big no-no under FCC rules.
As such, Audio Division Chief Al Shuldiner has rescinded the grant for the FM translator altogether.
The cancellation of the license for the FM translator was revealed in a letter released on Tuesday (6/14) by the Media Bureau’s Audio Division head and sent to Amy Meredith.
Meredith is the individual who leads Powell Meredith Communications Co., and is based in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Tex. On July 20, 2021, Powell Meredith filed a license application with the FCC asserting that it had completed construction at a location authorized in its construction permit. The licensee referenced the antenna structure registration number and coordinates of a tower owned by Pinnacle LLC.
On September 1, 2021, the Media Bureau granted the license, the first step toward bringing W270CS to life. The licensee included a standard condition requiring continuous operation for the first year of service and establishing “a rebuttable presumption” that any station silence within that period evidenced unlicensable, temporary construction.
On November 23, 2021, PMC requested special temporary authority to remain silent — triggering the rebuttable presumption under the eyes of the FCC. Why? The reason was “technical,” Powell Meredith said without providing details, dates, or any explanation that would rebut the presumption that it had engaged in temporary construction.
In January 2022, in response to an informal staff request for more information, Powell Meredith offered an explanation: Flooding from Hurricane Ida damaged the transmitter one day before the Bureau granted the license for W270CS. It resumed broadcasting a few days later, but stopped on November 23 because of additional unspecified technical problems.
That explanation was insufficient, however, to establish whether the station’s post-licensure silence actually stemmed from the hurricane or from other causes, Shuldiner notes. “In particular, the hurricane occurred while the License Application was still pending, PMC did not timely notify the Bureau of any initial or continuing effects of the hurricane and the January correspondence indicated that the station restored operations within a few days of the hurricane,” he says.
As the Commission saw it, the nature of any subsequent technical problems with W270CS was vague. This led the Bureau on February 17, 2022 to send Powell Meredith a Letter of Inquiry (LOI). The licensee was hardly pleased, saying it was singled out by the Bureau for “disparate treatment” by having received a LOI. Powell Meredith even argued that presumptions are outdated, speculative, draconian, and contrary to the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.”
While that’s certainly noteworthy, it is Powell Meredith’s response in the LOI to questions regarding the construction of W270CS that Shuldiner points to. The big problem: PMC admitted it did not use the authorized transmission tower owned by Pinnacle for the FM translator. Instead, it built its transmitter approximately 30 yards away on an amateur radio tower in a nearby recreational vehicle park.
The construction was not temporary, PMC explained, stating that the ham radio tower was mounted on a shed that was affixed to the ground and received power through a permanent electric outlet shared with an RV. Furthermore, Powell Meredith paid the owner of the RV $300 to use the location for three months with the intention of finding another location after hurricane season.
All of this occurred without any Commission authority to do so.
And, W270CS operated from the RV Site between July 19, 2021 and August 30, 2021 while its License Application was pending. There were no regular transmissions after the license was granted by the Commission.
Are there any photographs, documents, or invoices associated with the construction of a transmitter at the RV site? Nope. Powell Meredith told the Commission the RV and its owner have moved away and that the engineer who constructed the tower for the FM translator did not accept payment because he was acting only “as a friend.” PMC does, however, support its claim to have operated during the pendency of the License Application. It provided web links to two short July 2021 videos showing a car stereo receiving music while tuned to the station’s frequency of 101.9 MHz.
What’s the total broadcast time for W270CS since August 30, 2021? On March 4, 2022, a six-hour test using an antenna mounted on a pole at an unidentified location is all Powell Meredith can attest to.
To its defense, Powell Meredith contends it had no intent to deceive the Bureau by providing the incorrect report of Fall 2021 operations in the January 2022 correspondence and attributes the error to Amy Meredith’s “confusion” after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Powell Meredith translator broadcasts on the same dial position as 99kw WLMG-FM in New Orleans, which can be heard across the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the absence of W270CS. That, Powell Meredith, is a key factor in the FM translator’s silence, too — the March test, using a transmitter at an unknown location, purportedly caused inference with WLMG. Yet, Powell Meredith filed an application seeking a STA to have the translator stay silent months before these alleged interference concerns.
Shuldiner reviewed the facts, and ultimately rejected each of Powell Meredith’s procedural challenges. And, it ruled that the constructed facilities were not licensable because PMC provided false information in its license application by stating that it had completed construction at the authorized location.
This misinformation is the lynchpin in his decision that the W270CS license be rescinded.
Lastly, Shuldiner expressed frustration with Powell Meredith’s assertion that its facility built in an RV park was anything but temporary.
The STA request was rendered moot, and W270CS has been formally deleted by the Commission pending any possible appeals. It had a license expiry date of June 1, 2028 and listed its shared primary station as acclaimed New Orleans-based non-commercial WWOZ.
Meredith gained full control of Powell Meredith Communications Company in a 2009 divorce settlement with Scott Powell. In May 2016, the licensee lost the ability to construct a new AM radio station in Paradise, Nev., as it did not do so within the three-year time period the FCC allows for such new stations.