Station owner defies FCC orders to shut down

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2001

The Federal Communications Commission ordered seven radio station repeaters off the air across the Kenai Peninsula and on Kodiak Island, but station owner Dave Becker of Peninsula Communica-tions Inc. in Homer is defying the commission and continues to broadcast.

"We still haven't been formally served, and until we are, we will still remain on the air," Becker said from his office in Homer Tuesday afternoon.

"As long as we're licensed until 2006 we'll stay on the air."

Becker said he intends to file an appeal for an emergency stay with the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Once it falls in (the court's) jurisdiction, the matter will be in the court's hands," he said. "If we get it out of the hands of the FCC and in the hands of an impartial set of judges, we'll have the chance to make our case."

The FCC order, released Friday, said Becker needed to take the repeaters off the air by midnight Saturday. The repeaters include two in Kenai and Soldotna, which rebroadcast KWVV, known as K-Wave; one each in Anchor Point, Kachemak City and Homer, all of which rebroadcast KPEN; and two in Kodiak, which rebroadcast KPEN and K-Wave.

Becker said the short notice on a Friday was designed to keep him from appealing.

"They did that to discourage us from taking any appellant action," he said.

While the FCC order canceled the call signs for seven translators, it granted the continued operation of two repeaters in Seward, which rebroadcast KPEN and K-Wave. But that is only for 30 days, to give Becker time to show why they should stay on the air under waivers the FCC granted in 1995 and 1997.

Meanwhile, Becker's competitors praised the FCC decision.

"This is long overdue," said Dennis Bookey, vice president of radio stations KVOK and KRXX in Kodiak, which compete against two of Becker's repeaters.

"For the most part, broadcasters in Alaska respect and follow the regulations," he said. "It's very, very frustrating when someone competes dishonestly, as has been the case with Becker. We welcome this decision."

Chester Coleman, owner of Kenai radio stations KSLD and KKIS, agreed.

"I think it's unfortunate that the commission has taken so long to get (Becker) to honor the rules put into effect in 1994," Coleman said from his office in San Francisco. "This is a really serious situation. Basically he's running a pirate radio station.

"I'll be happy once Peninsula takes those stations off the air and goes back to running a legal operation."

John Davis, owner of Kenai radio stations KSRM and KWHQ, said it's been hard to compete with Becker's repeaters in Kenai-Soldotna, which rebroadcast K-Wave.

"His translators cover a pretty large area, and it's hard to compete with my cost of running a (full service) radio station and all he's got is a power bill," Davis said. "He gets a high profit on advertising."

"This can be a real blow to (Becker) in terms of regional advertising dollars," Coleman said.

In 1994, the FCC ruled that all radio stations across the country must turn off repeater stations, called translators, that are outside the coverage area of their parent station's signal. Translators inside a coverage area are allowed, so areas that get scratchy or no reception can be filled in. This is convenient, especially for FM stations in hilly country, because an FM signal can be weakened or blocked by the terrain.

Bookey said if repeater translators were continued outside the main coverage area, he, and every other station owner, could just daisy-chain them together and cover the state -- something the FCC recognized and tried to eliminate by banning translators outside the primary coverage area.

An exception to the rule is if someone with no financial connection with the primary station owned the translators.

A spokesperson in the FCC's media relations department in D.C. had no comment.

Becker said he was expecting a hearing before an administrative law judge after the district court remanded this case back to the FCC last year.

"But (the FCC) cut to the chase and terminated the licenses without a hearing," he said. "We're entitled to a hearing. It's in the law."

He said the Communications Act of 1996 makes the commission's case moot, and his case could be precedent-setting, and that's why the FCC has refused to address it.

"The telecommunications rewrite says if you operate in the public interest, have no infractions with the FCC and are a good licensee, you can expect to get your licenses renewed," Becker said.

"I've been at this five years. It's been dragging on a long time," he added. "This is a long, on-going battle, and this is not the end of it. I won't go down without a fight."

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