FCC beats dead horse

Back in June of 2011, I wrote about the sad story of WPLY-AM in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania [here] in the Pocono mountains, which had been a summer tourist destination for people from New York City before air conditioning was widely available.

WPLY-AM is owned by the bankruptcy trustee for the Nassau Broadcasting bankruptcy.    The failure of Nassau itself is a sad story of greed and overreaching during the land rush of radio in 1996 following deregulation.   An otherwise sound radio station owner in New Jersey got talked into acquiring a large number of non-viable radio stations in New England using borrwed money from Goldman Sachs after withdrawing its attempt to “go public”.   He acquired the stations at hugely inflated prices, just as the rest of the industry was realizing that radio station licenses were only worth a fraction of what people had been paying.

The vision Nassau had was it was going to create a network of commercial classical music stations covering New England with the flagship station being WCRB-FM in Boston.    Almost all of the stations Nassau bought were commercially non-viable, and were placed on satellite delivered music or regional simulcasts.

Nassau acquired this station from bankrupt Big City Broadcasting which filed for bankruptcy in 2002

So today’s news as reported by Tom Taylor is that WPLY-AM has been hit by a $17,000 fine by the FCC.    The FCC has not approved their request for the station to remain silent, and the FCC discovered that the station was operating on only one of the four antennas since at least 2000,   There also apparently has never been a public inspection file, another of the FCC’s pointless weapons it uses to bludgeon non-compliant station owners.

The original owner from New Jersey turned over control of Nassau in 2009 to Goldman Sachs and the other lenders, who filed to have the stations sold at auction inside a Chapter 7 liquidation.    The courts have ruled (for now) that the company can continue to operate as a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while the original owner tries to find financing to buy the stations back from the lenders for a small fraction of what he owes.   The bankruptcy proceeding is currently unresolved and perhaps this action by the FCC is motivated to tell the parties they can’t leave these stations in limbo indefinitely while they fight things out in bankrupcty court.


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