For nine months, Erick Salgado-led Cantico Nuevo Ministry awaited FCC approval for its February 2019 acquisition of WTHE-AM 1520 in Mineola, N.Y.
It turns out that the deal was stalled by a Petition to Deny the deal filed in March by WIN Radio Broadcasting Corp.
This week, Media Bureau Chief Michelle Carey delivered a ruling that will see Salgado’s group get the AM — so long as the seller abides by a Consent Decree.
As RBR+TVBR reported February 8, WTHE-AM 1520 in Mineola, N.Y. was faced with a difficult situation: the owner of a rival radio station acquired an option to acquire the transmitter site of WTHE in a bid to force a sale or, even worse, the permanent shutdown of a facility already silent.
On January 25, 2018, WTHE went silent under an STA. The reason, licensee Universal Broadcasting of New York told the FCC: WTHE was evicted from its transmitter site.
To keep the station from losing its license, WTHE returned to the air on Jan. 15, 2019, but fell silent again.
The Feb. 8, 2019 sale of WTHE to Cantico Nuevo Ministry was designed to bring the facility back to life. But, there’s a bit of drama involved.
Cantico Nuevo is the operator of WNYH-AM 740 in Huntington, N.Y., a Class D AM with a complex array of 4 towers and 25kw during daylight and just 43 watts after dark. It runs the station thanks to a time brokerage agreement with licensee Win Radio Broadcasting Corp.
Win is wholly controlled by Richard Yoon. According to Dr. Abraham Warshaw of Universal Broadcasting, an attempt was made by his company to secure a lease from the current owner of the WTHE transmitter site. Universal was informed that an “exclusive option” to lease the site had been granted to Yoon — who Warshaw claims represented himself as WTHE’s owner.
Fast-forward to March 2019, when WIN filed its Petition to Deny on the grounds that WTHE failed to resume operations by the specified date in January it needed to without losing its license.
In its Opposition, Universal argued that the Media Bureau “implicitly extended or reinstated” the WTHE license as a matter of “equity and fairness.”
It then noted that WIN “actively interfered with Universal’s efforts to resume station operation by entering into an exclusive lease of the station’s transmitter site with the new site owner on August 15.”
Also at issue: equipment and facility questions posed to Universal by WIN. Those questions were echoed by Carey and the Media Bureau.
“We agree with WIN’s analysis of precedent holding that a licensee’s resumption of
service with unauthorized facilities does not save a station’s license from automatic expiration pursuant to section 312(g),’” Carey said. “Further, we do not accept Universal’s argument that the STA Grant implicitly reinstated or extended the Station’s license as a matter of equity and fairness under section 312(g).”
Accordingly, Carey finds it is necessary to address and resolve the section 312(g) issue.
In doing so, she ruled that license reinstatement is appropriate “due to the unique circumstances beyond Universal’s control.”
This is tied to a 23-day government shutdown, in January 2019.
“We find it is appropriate to treat the shutdown as a compelling factor beyond Universal’s control because the STA application clearly would have been approved in time to resume operations within the section 3 12(g) 12-month deadline if not for the shutdown,” Carey ruled.
She then determined that WIN’s exclusive lease of the station’s licensed transmitter site on August 15, 2019 “is a second factor that we regard as a circumstance beyond Universal’s control.”
Accordingly, Carey concludes that this is an appropriate case for reinstatement of the WTHE license “as a matter of equity and fairness pursuant to section 3 12(g).”
But, she added, “As an exercise of our enforcement discretion, we are addressing those violations by imposing appropriate monetary sanctions on Universal” pursuant to a Consent Decree.
Importantly, Carey said, “we will approve the Application if the conditions set forth in the Consent Decree are satisfied.”
A $5,000 civil penalty is to be paid by Universal, with a sign-off on the Consent Decree made by Universal.