Concluding a process that dragged on for nearly three years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has renewed the broadcast license of Hartford’s WTIC-AM. The FCC action, confirmed to CT by the Numbers, comes three months after a federal appeals court upheld former Gov. John G. Rowland’s conviction for violating federal campaign laws. Just days after that ruling, the FCC lifted a years-long enforcement hold on the station’s license renewal, which then allowed the agency to consider the long-pending license renewal.
The station’s broadcast license expired 2 ½ years ago, on April 1, 2014. In accordance with FCC procedures, the station filed a license renewal application on November 27, 2013. By September 2014, the FCC’s enforcement division placed the renewal application on “enforcement hold.” It remained on enforcement hold – which precluded consideration of the application – until June of this year.
The license was renewed on September 13, 2016 for the customary period of eight years, retroactive to the expiration date of the previous broadcast license in 2014. It comes at a time when CBS Radio, which owns WTIC-AM, is seeking to sell or spin off its radio holdings. The agency’s renewal of the WTIC-AM broadcast license is scheduled to expire on April 1, 2022.
“We’re pleased with the FCC’s decision to renew the station’s license and look forward to many more years of providing the Hartford community with local news and engaging talk radio,” WTIC-AM 1080 Program Director Jenneen Lee said.
At the time that Rowland was accused of secretly accepting pay as a political consultant, he was also an afternoon radio host on WTIC-AM. His use of the airwaves in order to favor the candidate, Lisa Wilson-Foley, whose spouse was paying Rowland at the time, was raised during his trial. Rowland recently retained a new legal team and appears to be planning to pursue an appeal this fall at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The station could – and did - continue broadcasting while the FCC held the renewal application. Stations in such a status routinely continue to operate without any interruption until a decision on license renewal is made. As the agency’s Enforcement Bureau considered “an alleged violation of FCC rules,” the agency’s Media Bureau could not proceed with a decision on whether or not to renew the station’s broadcast license.
FCC officials have indicated that most often enforcement holds are instituted due to a complaint being filed that requires investigation, but they would not confirm whether that was true in this instance. That information is only made available to the licensee or their attorney, according to an FCC official. 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.” The FCC confirmed the receipt of that objection.
Rowland resigned from his drive-time talk show on WTIC-AM in April 2014. The station currently airs a locally-originated sports talk program in that time slot.
CBS Radio operates 117 radio stations in 26 U.S. markets, including Hartford’s WTIC-AM, WTIC-FM, WRCH-FM, and WZMX-FM.