Sacramento Microbroadcaster Sues FCC

KNOZ-LP has no license from the FCC. It’s an 84-watt hip-hop outlet run by a local publisher/promoter in Sacramento, California, squatting 96.5 Mhz. It’s pretty open about why it exists: to offer airtime to local artists who can’t crack the door at the three licensed “urban-format” stations in town. You even can grab aircheck-style mixtape samples of its programming online.
KNOZ went on the air in May of 2004 after the station’s founder, Will Major, consulted informally with the FCC. He was told he’d have to file a license application for an LPFM, and that he couldn’t do that until a new LPFM filing window opened (possibly in 2006). More informally, claims Major, he was told that so long as he stuck to the operational guidelines of the LPFM rules, kept a filled-out license application handy, caused no interference, and generated no complaints, he shouldn’t have a problem.
No foul on the interference front. The station got dimed instead. First by “Jammer” Dave Fortenberry, chief engineer of Salem Communications‘ Sacramento station cluster (Christian talk / FOXnews / Christian contemporary). Fortenberry, also a righteous ham, conducted intensive surveillance of the station and at one point posted the information online.
A formal complaint to the FCC was also filed by Larry Lemanski, station manager at 103.3 KBMB “The Bomb,” which positions itself as “Sacramento’s Official Hip-Hop Station.” KBMB is one four stations Lemanski oversees in the market for Entravision Communications.
First contact with the FCC came on January 3, when they phoned the station request line. Two days later, agents came knocking. They inspected the Free Radio Berkeley-built transmitter and threatened Will Major with a $100k fine or prison. Major cried foul because he thought he had a gentleman’s agreement. On January 12 they came back; this time they never got past the station’s front door.
In March, Will Major filed an application with the FCC to construct an LPFM station, almost assuredly a futile gesture. Last month he followed up with a lawsuit in federal district court for an injunction to keep the FCC from raiding KNOZ. Such a move has worked before and probably will not here: the FCC, like the IRS, won’t be held liable for “unofficial” correspondence. Perhaps it will keep the agents at bay?
Meanwhile – surprise! – an application to construct an FM translator station on KNOZ’s channel is pending before the FCC, filed by Eastern Sierra Broadcasting – an entity which, according to RECnet, deals in translators to a degree.

2 thoughts on “Sacramento Microbroadcaster Sues FCC”

  1. Probably should have got your facts straight on this before publishing. What a load of crap about me. I would have happily talked to you about it.

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