The owner of an AM station in Idaho faces an FCC hearing to consider whether its license should be renewed.

The reason for a hearing, the commission said, is the station’s “record of extended silence and operation at significantly reduced power,” among other factors.

The station is KPCQ(AM) in Chubbuck, Idaho, broadcasting on 1490 kHz and licensed to Snake River Radio.

If a broadcast station is silent for any consecutive 12-month period, its license expires. However, Holly Saurer, the new chief of the Media Bureau, noted in her order that some licensees of silent stations will resume operation for a short period before the one-year limit applies, to keep a license from expiring. Others have alternated between periods of silence and operations at very low power levels.

The commission appears to believe that was the case here. It says that from Feb. 1, 2018, to Oct. 1, 2021, the station was silent for 1,339 days or 80% of the time.

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SRR reported that it initially went silent when the site owner required it to remove its tower on June 30, 2018.

However, on June 26, 2019, the company filed a notice of resumption stating that the station had resumed operation on June 15 using its licensed facilities. “Because it is improbable that SRR was able to resume operation with the station’s licensed facilities after dismantling its tower, we are designating an issue to determine whether the station’s license expired … because the station failed to operate with its authorized facilities for more than 12 months.”

The station went silent again on June 17, 2019, when according to SRR a construction crew severed a tower guy wire, causing collapse of the tower. “This is also not explained in the Renewal Application.”

On June 24, 2019, SRR filed an application for construction permit to change site, which was granted.

On June 14, 2020, the station operated for one day, using a temporary long-wire facility. But it went silent again when that facility was destroyed by a construction crew, SRR wrote. It requested extension of silent authority because it was still constructing its new facility.

The FCC says the station remained silent until June 14, 2021, when it resumed operation under program test authority prior to filing its license application to cover the CP. It has operated since while a license renewal application, filed in 2020, is pending.

But now the Media Bureau, citing those extended periods of silence and questions about whether the license had expired automatically, says it is “unable to find that grant of the renewal application is in the public interest.” So it has designated the case to go before an FCC administrative law judge.

The commission instructed Snake River Radio to notify it within 20 days about its intention to appear and “avail itself of the opportunity to be heard and the right to present evidence.”

Asked for comment, SSR’s Managing Member Ted Austin told Radio World: “It is unfortunate that the loss of the station’s original tower site, COVID and the impact of digital media on the advertising revenue of small stations such as KPCQ(AM) has resulted in the FCC taking this action, but Snake River Radio LLC intends to provide the FCC with information that hopefully will preserve the license and allow SRR to truly serve the public interest of Chubbuck in the near future.”

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