Updated at 10:00pm UTICA/ROME -- Nearly eight months after his morning show on WUTQ/WADR was replaced by an extension of the station's "Talk of the Town" program, Hank Brown is returning to radio. While a local newspaper was first to report Brown's announcement, we discovered something on the FCC website which seems to indicate Brown's new radio home may not be legal, after a construction permit expired earlier this month.
According to a story on UticaOD.com this evening, Brown's new show will air weekdays from 9am to noon on 1120 WKAJ, starting next Monday, January 2.
You might remember reading about WKAJ here on CNYRadio.com earlier this year -- we told you the station's owners asked for permission to move WKAJ's construction permit from Little Falls, in Herkimer County to Saint Johnsville, in Montgomery County. Although that move took WKAJ only a few miles eastward, the county border is also the line separating the Utica-Rome radio market from the Albany-Schenectady-Troy market, as defined by radio ratings giant Arbitron (map, PDF, 11MB).
As of Tuesday night, the FCC still has WKAJ listed under "construction permit" status, and there's no sign yet of owner Cranesville Block Company requesting "license to cover," the final stage of FCC approval. Unless we're missing something, it appears that the WKAJ construction permit expired on December 15, 2011. That's the same expiration date on the original CP from 2008, where Michael Celenza was listed as owner.
In the letter officially allowing the move from Little Falls to Saint Johnsville this past July, the FCC stated, "this construction permit will be subject to automatic forfeiture unless construction is complete and an application for license to cover is filed prior to expiration."
Added at 10pm: Just to be sure, we checked with Scott Fybush, whom we consider to be much more experienced with interpreting FCC material. He tells CNYRadio.com that "the FCC has been granting 18 month CP extensions when CPs are sold to qualifying small buyers." However, Fybush said he looked through WKAJ's registration data as well and he concurs, "I don't see any formal request for an 18-month extension. But that doesn't mean the station is operating illegally. It's possible to get verbal extensions from the FCC, especially if your consulting engineer is someone like Bill Sitzman who's very well known in Washington...and especially if it's the end of the year and deadlines are looming."
Our thanks to Scott for his quick and helpful feedback on the matter -- we hope you'll check out his site, fybush.com, home of NorthEast Radio Watch and Tower Site of the Week, and order your copy of Scott's 2012 Tower Site Calendar. (The first part of NERW's "Year in Review" went up today, and the rest will appear next week.)
Is there a chance the FCC's website is late in making updates? Did WKAJ get a verbal extension, which might not appear online? Or will WKAJ's owners have to beg the FCC's forgivness when they explain why they missed this important deadline? We'll keep an eye on it.
In the UticaOD.com article, Brown is quoted as saying, “I can broadcast in Boonville and you’ll hear me just as well in Utica,” a statement which has your editor scratching his head, since the newspaper said WKAJ is based in Little Falls, nowhere near Boonville. Even more confusing, is why the paper said Little Falls despite the fact, as we already mentioned, FCC records show WKAJ licensed to Saint Johnsville.
However, if WKAJ is indeed legal to broadcast come January 2, Brown may still reach much of the same audience he used to reach from studios in downtown Utica. Even though the St. Johnsville transmitter site is even farther away from Utica than Little Falls, it was authorized to broadcast at much stronger levels. The updated CP included approval to broadcast at 10,000 watts during daylight hours. The original CP would have had WKAJ at only 1,500 watts.