Clear Channel slammed for control of WOLL


Vero Beach Broadcasters found much to dislike about Clear Channel Broadcasting maneuverings in the West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce-Stuart-Vero Beach markets. In the end, the FCC mostly supported Clear Channel, but did hit it with a fine for unauthorized transfer of control of WOLL-FM in dealings with related holding company Aloha Trust.

We’re going to try to boil this complex situation down. CCB had a pair of FMs – WKGR-FM and WLDI-FM, both licensed to Ft. Pierce (FP) but listed by Arbitron  under West Palm Beach (WPB). In total, it had a grandfathered 1-AM/7-FM FP cluster and a grandfathered 2-AM/5-FM cluster in WPB.

It applied to move the two FP stations to Wellington and Juno Beach, taking them out of the FP market and into WPB. They were already counted in WPB, so the move didn’t change the cap situation there – CCB was one FM over. It reduced FP to 1-AM, 5-FM, still one FM too many.

A third station was home to FP but listed by Arbitron under WPB – WOLL-FM Hobe Sound. CCB had Arbitron redesignate it to FP, then transferred the license to Aloha Trust, a move that brought both WPB and FP into compliance.

VBB argued that CCB was gaming the system. As a competitor in FP, it was still faced with WKGR & WLDI in the market. It said that even though the city of licenses had changed, the geographic coordinates of the transmitters had not, so they would remain the exact same competitive factor in the market.

Finally, WOLL was moved 60 km away from Ft. Pierce and transferred from Aloha back to CCB.

The FCC said all of the moves were legitimate. And it said that an ongoing shared services arrangement between Clear Channel and Aloha was appropriate – except for a few little items. Apparently some sales rate cards and other information published on the internet failed to make clear that WOLL was a separately-licensed facility with only an arms-length business relationship with CCB. Since that situation was in existence before the station was reeled back in by CCU, it was fined $8K for an unauthorized transfer of control.

This is the short version of the story – if you want the long version straight from the FCC, click the pdf link in the attachment box to the right.

RBR-TVBR observation: Was Clear Channel gaming the system, as VBB claimed? It may look that way, but nobody can look into the corporate soul and divine intent. The FCC certainly isn’t buying it. In fact, the FCC flat out says CCB was not gaming the system – it was going through proper FCC channels to conduct official FCC business within the FCC’s regulatory framework. It just got a little too up close and friendly in the WOLL LMA.