Station survives license renewal challenge


FCCA former employee of WLPR-FM Lowell IN submitted an informal objection to the renewal of the station’s license, citing a number of infractions. However, the complainant lacked on crucial item: evidence.

The station is a noncommercial Class A NPR affiliate on 89.1 MHz serving the area south of Gary IN, which in turn is just east of Chicago. It’s licensed to Northwest Indiana Public Broadcasting Inc.

The key infraction cited by the employee, Len Clark, was abuse of the underwriting rules. Clark said the station was basically running straight advertisements in order to fund itself.

As the station’s PD between January 2009 and April 2010, Clark stated that he and the station’s attorney pulled ads and infomercials off air temporarily because they felt they were in violation of the rules. However, the ads were reinstated by management, which claimed it was merely “pushing the envelope” on the underwriting rules.

Clark was fired and lost access to the computer he was using, thereby losing access to evidence. And without evidence, the FCC had nothing with which to base an possible action against the station.

According to the FCC, Clark basically went on to throw the book at the station. The FCC noted, “Clark raises several additional matters concerning station programming and operations. He states that WLPR participated in a ‘mock’ public file inspection conducted by the Indiana Broadcasters Association and that the Association asked the station to correct information regarding its transmitter location and Emergency Alert System tests. Clark states that the Licensee took no action but incorrectly told the Association that it had changed the information in order to obtain a certificate of compliance from the Association. Clark further states that he ‘has reservations’ about the quarterly issues-programs lists in the public file because the station does not air unpaid Public Service Announcements and does not air programming for Black listeners. He also questions whether the Station employs a sufficient number of minorities to meet EEO requirements. Finally, he states that the station does not comply with various requirements established by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for stations receiving CPB funding, such as holding open meetings and seeking input from a community advisory board.”

Again, however, Clark was unable to substantiate any of his charges, and in many cases, his complaints were not about anything over which the FCC has any jurisdiction.

In the end, the FCC said that as far as it could determine, the station is operating in the public interest, convenience and necessity, denied the Clark complaint and renewed the license.