A game of “catch me if you can” with the Federal Communications Commission rarely turns out well for a license holder. And an extraordinary decades-long effort to hide involvement in a number of entities controlling stations and translators in the Northeast has ended up costing an owner $100,000 and will lead to the loss of some licenses in the end.
Brian Dodge, whose companies include Family Broadcasting and Media, Harvest Broadcasting, Granite State Educational Foundation, The Love Radio Church, and Citizens For A Better Hilltowns, has admitted to using pseudonyms and a variety of addresses—including fake ones—to hide his involvement in the companies dating back to 1982. All the while, he collected a portfolio of three AMs, 10 FM translators and two low-power FMs.
The FCC says Dodge’s license renewal applications have been “under a cloud of unanswered questions” for years, although it doesn’t address how Dodge’s violations were allowed to go unchecked by the agency’s own review process for three decades. It does say that many of his applications and appeals have been on hold as the enforcement investigation was hampered by Dodge’s refusal to provide information to the FCC, leading to continued uncertainty as to which companies might be secretly controlled by him.
The FCC’s suspicions arose in 2014 when, while processing LPFM applications, the Media Bureau concluded that Dodge was using various personas, most often “Tim Allen,” to hide his identity. When it blocked his filings and turned off access to the FCC’s electronic filing system, agency staffers began receiving telephone calls from Dodge. The plot thickened when he identified himself to staff as “Tim Allen” while the FCC’s phone system caller ID showed “Brian Dodge” on its display.
It was hardly the first time Dodge has run afoul of the FCC for not being forthcoming. In 1993, questions came up but the investigation essentially fell through the cracks when he failed to provide some disclosures on a license renewal application.
Under an agreement with the FCC, Dodge has now agreed to pay a $100,000 fine. That money will come from the pending sale of two FM translators. Bouchard Broadcasting has agreed to a $75,000 deal to buy the Norwich, VT-licensed translator W261CB at 100.1 FM from Harvest Broadcasting Association to simulcast “News Talk 1380” WNRI in the Providence, RI market. And Costa-Eagle Communications has agreed to pay $150,000 to buy the Lebanon, NH-licensed W249AW at 97.7 FM which it will use to simulcast “Eagle News Radio 1110” WCCM in the Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester, NH market.
Dodge will also surrender his license for the currently silent WCKL, Catskill, NY (540) and two Springfield, MA market low-power FMs— including variety WDOE-LP (97.5), as well as a construction permit for a second LPFM. Federal regulations prohibit an existing station owner from also holding a low-power FM license. Dodge also has two pending applications for noncommercial FMs in southern New Hampshire, which are likely to be dismissed.
For the remaining station—the currently-silent WWNH, Madbury, NH (1340)—and FM translators that Dodge is allowed to continue operating, the FCC says he will be given conditional, one-year license renewals.