By SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s been just a few weeks since we filled several columns reporting on the bombshell deal in which Syracuse’s Craig Fox swapped two FM signals (the former WOLF-FM 105.1 DeRuyter and WWLF-FM 96.7 Oswego) to Family Life Ministries in exchange for WSEN-FM (92.1 Baldwinsville), the more centrally-located class B1 signal that became the new home of Fox’s “Wolf” country format.
But just as all the parties in that deal were settling into their new homes on the dial, the FCC has thrown an enormous wrench into the arrangement. In a Wednesday ruling, the Media Bureau slapped Fox with a $20,000 fine and dismissed the applications to transfer those licenses – all because of the way the deal was arranged.
The problem, it turns out, was with ownership caps: because LMAs count against ownership caps, Fox’s immediate LMA of 92.1 from Family Life was – to the FCC, anyway – counted against the seven stations in which Fox already has an interest within the Syracuse market. While Fox had asked for a waiver of the ownership cap for that very reason, and while the deal would actually have reduced Fox’s ownership down to six in-market signals once it all closed, the FCC says the LMA of 92.1 constituted unauthorized transfer of control.
There’s some good news for Fox and FLN, too – because the FCC dismissed the transfer application without prejudice, they can presumably refile the swap without the LMA and still complete the transfer of licenses, albeit with a delay.
We’ll be following this unusual case closely to see what happens next.