Just days after a federal appeals court upheld former Gov. John G. Rowland’s conviction for violating federal campaign laws, the Federal Communications Commission lifted an enforcement hold on WTIC-AM's license renewal. 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.
The FCC is now “in a position to consider the objections that have been filed regarding the renewal application,” an agency official told CT by the Numbers. There is no timetable for that review, which is just beginning now that the agency’s enforcement hold has been “lifted,” or for a final decision on the station’s license renewal application.
The station’s broadcast license expired almost 27 months 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,” which precluded any action by the agency on the renewal.
The station, owned by CBS Radio, could 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.
Even as the station remained on the air, the license renewal has been in limbo. 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, typically an 8-year renewal.
The FCC has not provided the reason that the license application was put on hold. 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.
Now that the license renewal application has reached 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.” The FCC has 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. The FCC had no comment on whether the now more than two-year delay in making a determination on the license renewal is among the longest in FCC history.