June 6, 2005 – "They must just love us," said Barbara James-Petersen, general manager of radio stations WSTX AM and FM, about the Federal Communication Commission Tuesday.
A FCC ruling on May 12 blistered the managers of WSTX and ordered the broadcast license, held by Family Broadcasting, Inc., revoked.
The decision had statements such as "The stations were being operated by Family's president, Gerald Luz James, in disregard of a licensee's "core responsibility" to provide uninterrupted broadcasting. It was found that Luz James had violated the licensee's duty of candor to the Commission in "purposely and repeatedly" providing false and misleading reports and information on basic station maintenance such as transmitter location, extent of hurricane damage, and non-payment of rent. It was also found that Luz James and Family Broadcasting, Inc. had failed to take care to protect the public from harmful emissions with adequate fencing, and had failed to provide an emergency alert system."
James-Petersen said she had not read the decision, but she took exceptions to the statement she heard about the fencing and the emergency alert system.
She said a section of the fence around the antenna was bent down when the inspection was made, but it was fixed within two days by her brother Vernon James.
She also showed off a system in a room off the studio in the old building on Fort Louis Augusta that she said was the emergency alert system. She said she was hurt to hear an investigator report that the station did not have the system. She said, "I was brought up to be honest, forthcoming. If we did not have an emergency alert system, I would admit we did not have one."
One of the tasks of the FCC Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel was to determine if a transfer of the broadcast license from the elder James to his daughter Petersen-James and her siblings would resolve the problems at the radio station. His decision stated that certain facts "reflect that Ms. James-Petersen and her siblings are totally dependent upon Luz and Asta James for financing station operations." and "that the transfer of control would not be effective, and therefore would not be in the public interest."
However, it does not appear that this transfer of the stations WSTX 97.5 AM and 100.3 FM. is what is at interest right now. An intent of purchase has been signed with Caledonia Communications Corp. Radio Stations Getting a New Owner.
Some of the mechanism for this purchase remains on track. Monday James-Petersen was helping move the stations operations to a new location in Gallows Bay. James-Petersen said this was in accordance with the agreement with Caledonia which is taking over operations of the station under a lease agreement until the license is transferred, if in fact, the FCC does let the transfer take place.
Attorney Daniel A. Huber is representing Family Broadcast. He said he plans to file exceptions, or what could be called an appeal, to the FCC decision this week.
The license revocation is to take effect on June 12, but Huber contends that the application for transfer to Caledonia has been before the board and needs to be dealt with before any revoking of a license will take place.
He said up until this point two issues were threading through the FCC concerning Family Broadcasting – the hearing on revoking the license and the application for transfer to Caledonia. He said the two issues will have coalesced in one issue in his appeal.
Meanwhile the employees at WSTX-AM found themselves without a job on Monday.
James-Petersen said that she believed Caledonia would pick back up some of the dozen people she once employed, but it was all in transition now.
According to James-Petersen, during the transition the FM station lost its format for a couple weeks and was simulcast with the AM format. Now, the new FM's format is running and the old AM format is down and it is being simulcast under the FM format. "We are hoping to have everything running next week," she said. "They will again be two separate stations."
Kevin Rames, who is president and the only stockholder in Caledonia, said Monday night that Huber is an "excellent attorney on FCC matters" and Rames is confident that Huber is pursuing a valid course. He said that it would be good for the full Commission to see and consider the application of license transfer to Caledonia.
Rames, however, sees another front on which the revocation of the license won't go through and the transfer can be made to Caledonia. He said that a full-month before the FCC decision was made, Family Broadcasting had filed for bankruptcy. A bankruptcy filing immediately puts a stop to many things that can be done to a company. Rames says he believes that the decision by the FCC, since it came after the bankruptcy filing, will be unenforceable.
He said he remains "confident of a positive outcome" for the situation. He said saving the stations is to him is like "protecting a valuable natural resource." He said his mother has been listening to the stations for 25 years.
The stations began broadcasting in 1952. Family Broadcasting took it over in 1990. James-Petersen said the stations have always been on the air 24-hours a day. "My father made sure that there was a living, breathing person always here. A real person would answer the phone when you called."
Problems between the station and the FCC became public in 2001. (See "FCC Cites Family Broadcasting for Violations"). At that time the FCC claimed that Family Broadcasting had moved an antenna from Blue Mountain to Fort Louis Augusta without informing the FCC.
Petersen-James said she will remain working with the stations as long as the license remains in Family Broadcasting's name. She said that plans were for the AM station to be broadcasting from its new location Thursday with its regular religion show.
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