FCC turns down petitions against D.B. Zwirn
The Ohio radio group owned by Percy Squire was lost to interests of finance company D.B Zwirn in a bankruptcy action back in 2007. Squire recently petitioned to deny license renewals for four, and to deny the sale of a fifth to Educational Media Foundation. DBZ said underpinning charges were unsupported and in one case, incomprehensible.
Squire objected to license renewals for WVKO(AM), Columbus OH; WVKO-FM, Johnstown OH; WASN(AM), Youngstown OH; WGFT(AM), Campbell OH; and the sale to EMF of WRBP(FM), Hubbard OH.
Part of Squires objection was based on what it called an improper transfer of control when Fortress Investment Group took over hedge funds controlled by DBZ. It said that even if the licensee entered into an LMA with Fortress the situation was improper due to its assertion that Fortress was pulling all the strings at the stations.
It also said that there was foreign ownership in excess of the 25% limit.
Licensee Bernard Ohio LLC responded, saying that Squire provided no facts to support its allegations, and further said that “it is virtually impossible to comprehend [Squire’s] arguments” on foreign ownership and that regardless Squire did not prove that anybody other than the licensee controls the stations.
Squire also objected to a license modification for WRBP (a main studio waiver) – EMF said this should be tossed because it was tied entirely to Squire’s battle with Zwirn/Bernard and had nothing whatsoever to do with the merits of the modification.
Squire entered into the record testimony from Dr. Glenn Cherry detailing Cherry’s own similar dealings with Zwirn, but they were disregarded both for lack of factual support and due to the fact that they had nothing whatsoever to do with any of the Ohio stations.
Squire’s charge of predatory lending pratices on Zwirn’s part were also tossed due to lack of proof.
In the end, the licenses were renewed, the deal approved and the main studio waiver granted.
RBR-TVBR observation: We have seen the FCC admit there may be legitimate grievances involved in a particular transaction, but unless they fall completely within FCC jurisdiction, almost invariably the FCC will refer the complainant to the judiciary system. The aforementioned Cherry has taken that route, without success to our knowledge, and the FCC made no such recommendation to Squire in the immediate case.