Friday, October 20, 2017


There were quite a few comments about last Monday’s post [link] about KIOF-LP a/k/a Las Vegas Public Radio and its recent lawsuit against CPB and the FCC plus recent questionable fundraising appeals. However, no one wanted their name or station affiliation revealed.

By the way: KIOF took down its pitch to help victims of the Las Vegas shooting tragedy by donating to the station.

A management person at another Las Vegas noncom station told me that Greg LaPorta, proprietor of KIOF, is an extremely litigious individual. Another station person told me that KIOF is a “house of cards” that will crash sooner or later.

A third reader commented that an LPFM station must broadcast with no more than 100-watts. KIOF’s promotional material claims the station broadcasts with 250-watts. I checked the FCC database and the reader is correct and KIOF is licensed at 100-watts.

An anonymous reader wrote that LaPorta’s complaint brings up an issue worth discussing:

There is much to be said about how CPB’s system of funding [is] structurally set up in a way that biases in favor of over-funding bigger stations and under-funding smaller stations.

I would agree that the bar for CPB providing funding to an LPFM should be fairly high, as there is often little justification from the LPFM that they are truly providing content that is serving its community sufficiently enough to warrant government support.

But right now it is functionally impossible for an LPFM to receive any Community Service Grant funding, and that I would agree is not appropriate.

KEN SAYS: First, the reader has one factual error: CPB does provide Community Service Grants (CSG) to a few LPFM stations. The first example that comes to mind is WGVV-LP licensed to Rock Island in the Quad Cities market. WGVV operates as Groove 92.5 with primarily a rap and hip-hop format. According to CPB’s files, WGVV became qualified for a CSG in 2005 and has received funding each year ever since. WGVV’s disclosure information says the station received around $108,000 in 2016.

The reader’s major point – that CPB provides too much funding to large market stations and too little funding to smaller stations – is an “eternal” issue within the public broadcasting system.

It can be argued either way:


There are many observers who agree with the reader and feel stations with larger budgets should get less CPB support than they do now. They think that much of the money going to “well off” stations should be diverted to smaller market stations and stations that serve diverse communities.


Large stations, particularly in the nation’s biggest markets reach the most people and are the most cost-effective use of CPB funding. For example KQED reaches almost a million weekly listeners and KMUW in Wichita reaches around 50,000 weekly listeners. Therefore CPB’s support to KQED serves many more listeners than a smaller station like KMUW.

I think CPB’s support has more impact in Wichita because that market likely could not support a NPR News/Talk station without CPB support. I started my career in South Dakota, so I tend to side with the needs of small stations. In the Dakota’s there wouldn’t be public broadcasting without CPB support.


Regarding our coverage of WBAI’s rights to continue short-term broadcasting from the Empire State Building, I received this anonymous comment:

No court can compel the "seizure" nor "sale" of the most valuable (if not ONLY valuable) asset that Pacifica owns: the license to broadcast on 99.5FM. That's because it's not an asset, it's a license. It's not "owned" by Pacifica, it's "assigned" to Pacifica by the government via the FCC. The FCC has the right to revoke that license, at any time for almost any reason.

Worse, the is legal precedent that may block any attempt to force WBAI off the air, too. A creditor cannot block a debtor's only means of repaying the creditor. There have been several court cases that allowed a broadcast tenant to keep broadcasting even though they were in arrears on their tower rent and the tower owner wanted to kick them off the tower.

KEN SAYS: Since I am not a lawyer, so I ran these questions by one the best communication lawyers in Washington, DC, Ernie Sanchez. Sanchez is the former NPR General Counsel and President of the Sanchez Law Firm [link]. 

The bottom line is that some of what I’ve said on the matter is wrong (more about this is below). Sanchez provided this analysis:

It's good to hear from you.  I think Pacifica may be on the ropes but they are not totally down yet.

1) While Pacifica lost the lawsuit to the Empire State building, I do not believe the landlord can evict them automatically. I'm not a New York lawyer, but I believe eviction would require a separate lawsuit in which Pacifica might have new defenses. This might buy Pacifica additional time.

The Complaint in the original suit did nor specifically ask for eviction--just for the money. I think Pacifica may be entitled to more due process. I do not know if there is a separate eviction suit already filed.

2) I can see no reason Pacifica would not ask for the right to reorganize under the bankruptcy laws. This would freeze any and all judgements and law suits and place Pacifica under the protection of the bankruptcy court and a court appointed trustee.

Again this would buy more time while the issue of potential forced liquidation is sorted out. They have assets well in excess of their debts, so going out of business altogether, seems highly unlikely.

They may be forced to sell some non-core assets which seems feasible. They could also swap/sell their commercial FM channel for an NCE channel and have extra money left over to bank. They can also negotiate reductions with their creditors.

3) The landlord absolutely can not legally seize the license and start using it or sell it to a third party. The FCC would have to approve any assignment of license and that would have to be specifically authorized by an appropriate court. Again, more due process for Pacifica. I will send you more details on that issue by separate email.

4) If Pacifica were thrown off Empire State, the FCC would readily give them temporary permission to operate from some other site. Of course, a new landlord would have to be convinced to take them. A big deposit would likely be required.

5) I predict Pacifica will yet make a substantial payment to Empire State, in return for reducing the overall debt, and creating a payment plan for the balance.

KEN CONTINUES: I apologize for any confusion caused by my original post.   Will change the verbiage in my previous reporting. Thank you to the anonymous reader who sent the comment.

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