From 1947 until her passing on April 23, 2012, Agnes Simpson was the owner and force behind WOOF-AM & FM in Dothan, Ala. The FM continues to be a top-rated Adult Contemporary station serving the Wiregrass region of Alabama, led by descendant Katrina Leigh Simpson Thomas.
Two weeks ago, the company led by Clay Holladay decided to compete against WOOF-FM, by way of a 250-watt FM translator.
Now, this translator’s previous operations have come under scrutiny by the FCC’s Audio Division. The company run by family member Bob Holladay that serves as the licensee for this translator is being charged with “willful and repeated violations” of FCC rules, and they’re serious.
On March 11, W299BX signed on the air by using the HD2 signal of WDBT-FM 103.9, licensed to Fort Rucker, Ala. It is branding itself “Music 107.7,” in reference to the translator’s position on the FM dial.
But, it is the prior position of this Alabama Media LLC translator that’s caught the attention of Media Bureau Audio Division Chief Al Shuldiner.
The matter stems from a Construction Permit application and special temporary authority (STA) request for W299BX filed nearly three years ago. This led to the October 28, 2016 filing by WOOF Inc. of an informal objection to the application and request. On Nov. 29, 2016, Alabama Media filed an Opposition to WOOF’s objection.
Then, Fox Broadcasting Corp. — the licensee of WFXX-FM in Georgina, Ala., not the broadcast TV company — entered the fray and also filed informal objections to Alabama Media’s applications. There’s a good reason for this, as will be explained further in this story.
The main problem, as Shuldiner’s team found, is two-fold: First, W299BX was operating from an unauthorized location. Perhaps more damaging is that W299BX was found to be originating programming while its primary station was silent.
Bob Holladay’s operation is also at fault for failing to seek FCC approval for an 11-month period of silence of W299BX. For this, a $3,000 fine is being proposed.
Then, there is an admonishment for failure to disclose a material fact in its CP application.
At the end of the day, Fox’s objections were tossed, and WOOF’s objection was granted in part. Bob Holladay is now liable, pending appeal, for a monetary forfeiture in the amount of $18,000 — $2,000 higher than normal based on what Shuldiner ruled was “the extensive and egregious nature of the apparent violations.”
STATION ORIGINATION SHIFT
Alabama Media LLC is the licensee for four Dothan stations. In conjunction with an effort to locate all of its stations to a common site, it relocated the translator to a new tower site and commenced operations from the site on or about Sept. 10, 2016.
However, it didn’t have Commission authorization to make the move. AMLLC now acknowledges that it failed to file an application for Commission consent to relocate the translator prior to commencing operation from the new site, becoming aware of this problem only when an FCC inspector notified it of the apparent violation on October 24,
Two days later, Alabama Media filed the CP application. This sought approval of the site change and proposed that the translator rebroadcast WARB-AM 700 in Dothan. Then, just 24 hours after that, the STA request was filed with the Commission.
The fact that Alabama Media already commenced operations on the translator was not noted in the the CP Application as originally filed, nor in a December 1, 2016, amendment; it did submit such a disclosure in the STA Request.
WOOF then spoke up, noting that the translator was being operated “at an alternate location 4.2 km from its licensed site, at a height at variance from its listed parameters.”
It is WOOF that also alerted the FCC to the fact that from Sept. 7-18, 2016, WARB was dark, while the translator originated its own programming “for at least 11 days.”
To be clear, the translator at this time was serving as the home of ESPN Radio for Dothan and the Wiregrass; WARB was using the WCNF-AM call letters. ESPN Radio was dropped in April 2018.
WOOF also tried to assert that Alabama Media was in violation of FCC rules because of purported business relationships between Clay Halladay’s Gulf South and Bob Halladay’s AMLLC. It then inserted inferences to James Rickey Carter‘s relationship to the Halladay family, as his Alaradio Media LLC is the licensee of WARB.
This was tossed by the Media Bureau, which said, “WOOF presents no facts, other than the familial relationship, showing that Clay Holladay has any interest or involvement in the operation of AMLLC’s stations, or that Robert Halladay has any interest or involvement in Gulf South’s stations.” Thus, there are no violations of the local radio multiple ownership rules, which WOOF claimed.
Meanwhile, Fox wanted W299BX’s license cancelled altogether, claiming interference within WFXX-FM’s 60 dBµ contour.
The Media Bureau didn’t buy Fox’s argument.
“We find that Fox has not provided evidence of ‘actual interference’ in the form of bona fide listener complaints and that further discussion of this issue is unwarranted,” Shuldiner ruled.
Alabama Media obtained the translator, which was formerly W296CM in Smyrna, Ala., in July 2014 from non-commercial Christian Contemporary Music operator Way Media. The purchase price was $30,000.