“This application remains on hold and I cannot say when it will be resolved.” That is the latest update from the Federal Communications Commission on the pending license renewal application of radio station WTIC-AM in Hartford. The station filed its license renewal application more than two years ago, on November 27, 2013. As the agency’s Enforcement Bureau considers “an alleged violation of FCC rules,” the agency’s Media Bureau cannot proceed with a decision on whether or not to renew the station’s broadcast license. The application was placed on “enforcement hold,” amidst speculation that the action was related to use of the station’s airwaves by former Governor and station talk show host John Rowland, who was previously and subsequently convicted of federal corruption and campaign-related charges.
The FCC had no comment on whether the delay in making a determination on the license renewal is among the longest in FCC history, and a spokesman this week said that the agency does not comment on the status of the license application. Although the station’s broadcast license expired on April 1, 2014, more than 22 months ago, WTIC can continue to broadcast until the FCC makes a determination on its license renewal application, which was filed just days before the deadline back in 2013. Stations in such a status routinely continue to operate without any interruption until a decision on license renewal is made.
If the station’s license renewal is granted, it would be for an 8-year period. There has been no comment by the FCC on specifically when or why the federal agency’s enforcement division placed the application on hold, or when it might be lifted. FCC officials have indicated that most often enforcement holds are instituted due to a complaint being filed that requires investigation. The reason for the enforcement hold is only made available to the licensee or their attorney, the FCC has said.
The station is owned by CBS radio, which this month announced that revenues from its radio stations were down 5 percent in the 4th quarter of 2015. The website Radio Online attributed the decline to “continued softness in the ad radio ad marketplace and lower political advertising.” One of the mainstays of the WTIC talk line-up, nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh, was recently ranked as the second most popular national talk show, behind Michael Savage, which airs in Connecticut on other stations.
When the license renewal application does reach the agency’s Media Bureau, they will consider “how the allegation of violation was resolved,” as well as a range of other factors in deciding whether or not to renew the station’s license. The other, more routine, factors include whether any other objections have been raised about the station, whether the station has been adequately serving the public in their area of license, their history of compliance with FCC regulations, and their overall performance.
Hartford Attorney Ken Krayeske filed an informal objection on October 1, 2014 to WTIC’s broadcast license renewal, alleging that the station “demonstrated serious malfeasance” and “helped conceal violations of federal law.”
As for the pace at which the FCC finalizes action on pending license applications, one indication came last week, when the FCC announced it had denied an objection to a station license renewal that was filed in October of 2013 in regards to station KKZZ in Port Hueneme, CA. The AM station’s application for renewal was granted by the FCC on February 9, 2016 – more than two years after it was filed.