Entravision proposed upgrades to its two Phoenix market signals carrying the regional Mexican “La Suavecita” simulcast KDVA (106.9) and KVVA-FM (107.1) has again been thwarted by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has also cleared the way for a new Phoenix market FM to sign-on after years of delays.

The effort to sign-on KAZV (107.3) began in Nov. 2011 when the Media Bureau granted a construction permit to Able Radio to build a station licensed to Aquila, AZ. The grant meant that Entravision’s plans for its two Phoenix FMs were also dismissed. But the company didn’t take the loss sitting down. It filed a number of challenges to the new Class C2 FM each with the common theme that Able never had reasonable assurances that the proposed tower site could be used.

Things took an unexpected turn in 2014 when Able Radio went bankrupt. A court-ordered auction to sell the station was held in March 2015 and when the three bids were opened Entravision was dealt yet another setback. It had offered $275,000 for KAZV. The winner was Bill Smith’s Matinee Media, which bid $332,500 for the station.

The job of getting KAZV was now in the hands of the new owner and task wasn’t as smooth as Matinee Media likely anticipated when it placed the winning bid. In Oct. 2015 it applied to build a different 365-foot tower between Aquila and Wickenburg, AZ than what had been originally planned for KAZV. But processing of that application hit a number of delays related to leasing issues, local zoning laws, environmental compliance concerns, and Federal Aviation Administration compliance reviews.

With the construction permit’s clock ticking, in July 2017 Matinee asked Maricopa County, AZ for a special zoning permit to get the station on the air before the permit expired. On Dec. 6, 2017 the county finally agreed, giving the company permission to build a 199-foot tower for use for nine months. But that blessing, no matter how temporary, came just a few weeks before the KAZV permit was to expire on Dec. 26. When Matinee asked the FCC for more time the Media Bureau said no. So, when a scaled back 150-tower was greenlighted it managed to file for program test authority on the very day the permit was to expire, a day after Christmas.

Entravision was also closely watching Matinee’s situation unfold since a day later, Dec. 27, 2017, it again filed applications to made changes to both KVVA-FM and KDVA. Its plans called for changing KVVA-FM’s city of license from Apache Junction, AZ to Sun Lakes, AZ and moving its Class C3 signal up the dial to 100.5 FM. Entravision also applied to keep KDVA at its existing transmitter site and a Buckeye, AZ city of license but move the Class A station one click up on the dial to 106.7 FM.

In the applications Entravision pointed out Matinee didn’t have permanent permission to use KAZV’s tower site and under FCC rules a construction permit with temporarily constructed facilities fail to meet the obligations for signing-on a new station. It told the FCC that what Matinee had created was a “mere placeholder” rather than a fully-built station.

For its part Matinee said it did the best that was allowed by local zoning officials under the circumstances. It also told FCC that the 150-foot tower is “still in place and may be turned on and used to operate KAZV, once program test authority and/or the [license] application are granted.”

After reviewing the arguments presented by both companies, Audio Division chief Albert Shuldiner has concluded Matinee should be allowed to move ahead with getting KAZV on the air. “Entravision has failed to demonstrate that Matinee failed to meet the terms of its permit or that grant of the KAZV license application would be inconsistent with the public interest,” he wrote in the eight-page decision.

While FCC rules don’t allow a company that’s holding a construction permit to use temporary makeshift facilities just to keep the CP from expiring, Shuldiner said in this case Matinee’s plans were thwarted by local zoning issues. “A local zoning or other permit need not be ‘permanent’ or of indefinite duration to satisfy our licensing requirements,” he said. Shuldiner also pointed out that the company has already said it plans to increase KAZV’s tower height as soon as Maricopa County officials allow.

Because Entravision’s upgrade plan for KVVA-FM and KDVA were built off of the idea that KAZV wouldn’t be allowed to sign-on, the Commission has dismissed those applications saying they are “unacceptable for filing due to failure to meet the minimum distance separations” required. The decision clears the way for KAZV to finally begin broadcasting, nearly seven years after the FCC first approved plans to put the station on the air. Wasting no time, Matinee on Monday quickly filed the necessary paperwork with the FCC to make that happen.