In a series of decisions, the Federal Communications Commission has rejected a multi-pronged effort by California broadcaster Ed Stolz seeking to not only convince the agency to reverse its approval of Entercom’s 2017 merger with CBS Radio but also yank five station licenses Entercom holds in Sacramento as punishment for the company’s ill-fated “Water For Wii” contest. Stolz, long at war with Entercom, had filed multiple petitions with the FCC yet he’s been repeatedly rebuffed by the Media Bureau and the Commission. If Stolz decides to continue his fight, he’ll need to file an appeal of the FCC decisions with the U.S. Court of Appeals.
In what had been Stolz’s most bullish request, he had asked the FCC to reverse the CBS-Entercom rollup based on anti-Trump jokes that CBS TV host Stephen Colbert made on his “Late Show.” Stolz argued the Media Bureau should have designated the transaction for an evidentiary hearing following the “intentional news distortion” by Colbert on CBS-TV stations, which he said are part of a “a well-known leftist media organization.”
Stolz also raised the allegations that former CBS chief Les Moonves sexually harassed several employees. Stolz referred to Moonves as a “sexual predator” and said the allegations “raise substantial and material questions” as to whether CBS Radio’s parent company had the requisite character qualifications to hold radio station licenses. He argued the FCC should rescind the Entercom-CBS approval until an independent FCC administrative law judge reviews the allegation around Moonves’ purported misconduct.
Entercom however said the precedent that Stolz used in his appeal wasn’t applicable, in part because there wasn’t any criminal conviction of Moonves and therefore the FCC had no role to play.
In its latest decision, the Commission doesn’t draw any conclusions on Moonves’ guilt or innocence – despite the CEO’s resignation. But more critically for Stolz, it says he also provided no evidence for why the alleged conduct is relevant to CBS’s qualifications to sell its stations to Entercom. It also points out that Moonves’ alleged “improper conduct” didn’t involve any CBS Radio stations involved in the transaction. Even if they had, the Commission says Stolz failed to show why transferring the stations to Entercom wouldn’t be in the public interest.
In a related decision, the Commission also once again rejected Stolz’s challenge to a 2017 Media Bureau decision that granted the license renewals to five Entercom-owned Sacramento stations. The Commission said Stolz lacks standing in the proceeding, a conclusion that blocked his earlier attempts to see the licenses yanked from Entercom’s hands. Beyond those procedural grounds, the Commission also says Stolz failed to identify any factual or legal errors in earlier decisions to award new licenses to CHR “106.5 The End” KUDL,“98.5 Rock” KRXQ, classic rock “Eagle 96.9” KSEG, alternative rock “Alt 94.7” KKDO, and “ESPN Sports 1320” KIFM.
Fatal Contest Fallout Continues
Entercom surrendered the license for KDND (107.9) in Feb. 2017 as punishment for the station’s infamous 2007 “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest, which led to the death of one of its contestants. Stolz has repeatedly argued that by turning in the KDND license, Entercom didn’t “face the music” for its misdeeds. He’s urged the FCC to punish the company by withholding the license renewals for its five other Sacramento stations.
But in a third decision released this week the Commission has upheld a previous position by its general counsel that Stolz had no standing in the administrative legal process which Entercom was involved in as the FCC reviewed the KDND case. While Stolz questioned the Commission’s authority to leave that decision up to its top attorney, the FCC said it does hold that authority —and that Stolz could include that in any appeal he chooses to file in federal court.
That is likely where the case will head next in the long-running battle between Stolz and Entercom, which dates back more than two decades. Stolz has been engaging in legal battles with Entercom since 1996 when he changed his mind about his $25 million deal to sell KWOD—what’s now “106.5 The End”—to Entercom. But the second thoughts came too late and the company refused to abandon its acquisition.
Undeterred, Stolz has filed, and subsequently lost, a series of appeals at the FCC and in various federal courts to regain control of KWOD and he’s currently challenging the agency’s approval of the transfer in court.
Most recently, Stolz filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, asking it to overturn the June 2016 decision in which the Commission rejected his latest maneuver to retake KWOD’s license. But the court sided with the FCC and when Stolz appealed to the Supreme Court in June 2018 his luck wasn’t much better. When the Supreme Court convened its term last October among the first things it did was reject Stolz’s petition for review.
Stolz’s Royce International Broadcasting owns CHR “92.7 The Revolution” KREV in San Francisco; CHR “104.3 Now” KFRH and “790 Talk Now” KBET in Las Vegas; and CHR “Hot Hits 97.7” KRCK-FM in Palm Springs, CA.