Fate Sealed For Former California AM and its FM Translator


As December 2008 came to a close, paperwork was filed at the FCC that put the wheels in motion on a $125,000 transaction sending Live Wire Media Partners’ KTHO-AM in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., to International Aerospace Solutions Inc.

That licensee, led by Darrell Wampler, ran afoul of FCC rules in December 2017 after an agent of the Enforcement Bureau’s San Francisco Office found that there were no EAS logs or station logs showing that the required weekly or monthly EAS tests had been conducted. Further, the KTHO station log and/or the EAS logs had not been maintained for the previous two years.

Those violations preceded what the Commission calls the stations’ “extended failure to broadcast as authorized,” leading Media Bureau staff to “appropriately” dismiss IAS’s applications to renew the stations’ licenses based on the fact they automatically expired.

IAS appealed the January 2022 Media Bureau decision. And, the Commission has just ruled on the Application for Review. What is their decision?


The AFR was denied, ensuring that KTHO-AM 590 and K241BK at 96.1 MHz in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., will remain deleted.

What’s the big issue?

After the 2017 EAS matter, IAS ceased operating the AM and its FM translator from its licensed site sometime in December 2018. after the tower owner seized the stations’ transmission equipment due to nonpayment of rent. IAS did not timely share that information with the Commission.

To prevent automatic expiration of the stations’ licenses under section 312(g) of the FCC’s rules, IAS needed to resume broadcasts of KTHO-AM from an authorized location
within 12 months, i.e., by December 2019. Within that same period, resumption of retransmission of the AM signals over authorized facilities of the FM translator was necessary.

Here’s the fatal flaw: “There is no evidence that IAS resumed authorized operations of either of the stations within that timeframe,” the FCC determined.

There’s more: K241BK was on air in 2019 and 2020 from an unknown location while KTHO was silent. This is in apparent violation of the prohibition on program origination from translator stations. The Enforcement Bureau learned of this through public complaints. As such, the Media Bureau was unaware of the situation when it granted an Special Temporary Authority request to IAS.

After learning of the Enforcement Bureau complaints, the Media Bureau contacted IAS three times between March 2021 and October 2021 to clarify the stations’ operating history. It received no response by a final Bureau-established deadline of October
11, 2021. Rather, IAS’s counsel sent an email eight days later in which they acknowledged that IAS had been operating both stations from a temporary site at reduced power, and stated that IAS was checking with its engineer to determine why listeners might have heard the FM translator but not KTHO.

There was nothing further directly from IAS, leading to the automatic cancellation of the licenses of K241BK and KTHO.

On December 20, 2021, IAS submitted for the first time some of the information that the
Bureau had previously requested, along with a petition for reconsideration. IAS admitted the variance in operations, which shifted to the home of the stations’ engineer. While it did not dispute the unauthorized operations, IAS argued that newly presented facts and arguments warranted reinstatement pursuant to the Commission’s discretion to promote equity and fairness. Among these new arguments — the owner of IAS has Parkinson’s Disease, which affected his ability to execute certain tasks including to respond to the Bureau’s inquiries; IAS would assign any reinstated licenses to its engineer, who is a member of a minority group; the stations were negatively affected by loss of site,
the coronavirus pandemic, and loss of advertising revenue; loss of the stations would be
anti-competitive, resulting in monopolistic control of the radio market in an underserved community; the stations provide safety information responsive to the Tahoe Basin’s unique geography, weather, and wildfires as well as provide COVID information; and the stations’ operations from an unauthorized site did not cause any interference and conferred a public benefit by providing local news, weather, and emergency information.

IAS could have presented each one previously had it responded to the Bureau’s
inquiries, the Media Bureau said in January 2022, when it dismissed the petition from IAS to reconsider the license cancellations.

Now, the Commission is upholding the Bureau decision, concluding, “IAS’ reconsideration petition relied on arguments it could have but did not raise previously.”