GPB’s Rogers took back radio license without telling FCC
By JIM WALLS
Sept. 11, 2013 — Former Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers took back control of a Cartersville radio station last year, apparently without notifying the Federal Communications Commission or his employer.
Rogers, who left his Senate leadership position in December to take a $150,000-a-year job with Georgia Public Broadcasting, has not returned telephone calls seeking comment.
The station, tiny WYXC-AM, is at the center of an ongoing drama that’s spilled over into Bartow County courts. Current operators John and Brandi Underwood filed suit last month, alleging their partner Greg Detscher had surreptitiously bought the station and kicked them out of the premises. They soon turned the tables by obtaining a court order restoring their access and denying his, pending a Sept. 18 hearing.
The controversy has lit up Cartersville message boards, with hundreds of posts on the ownership dispute and Detscher’s Aug. 26 arrest for alleged battery and deposit account fraud. Detscher, in a brief interview, said he purchased the station from Rogers last month but declined further comment.
FCC records show WYXC-AM in Cartersville is licensed to Clarion Communications Inc., which bought the station in 2006
from Rogers, who financed $190,000 of the deal. Ownership records from 2011, the most recent on file with the FCC, name Cartersville businessman Chuck Shiflett and former Adairsville City Councilman Tommy Young as equal partners in Clarion.
Shiflett, though, said in an interview that he transferred his half-interest back to Rogers in January 2012. And the station’s public file shows that Rogers signed papers turning over management of WYXC to Detscher and the Underwoods in December 2012.
The FCC requires that licensees report changes in controlling interest and obtain regulators’ prior approval for an outright sale. The FCC investigates when licensees fail to do so, fining a Decatur radio station $22,000 in 2011, for instance, for failing to report an ownership change.
An FCC spokeswoman confirmed last week that it had received no notice of any change in WYXC’s controlling interest. The station’s public file, which licensees must make available to anyone wanting to see it, contains no such notice.
Georgia Public Broadcasting, which requires that employees get written permission for outside employment, also has no written disclosure of Rogers’ ownership or affiliation with outside media outlets. A GPB media relations officer said she would check to determine whether the policy would cover ownership of another broadcasting company.
The network expects employees to comply with FCC regulations “as they pertain to GPB’s licensed stations and GPB’s policies and procedures,” human resources director Veronica Pemberton Daniels wrote Monday in an email to Atlanta Unfiltered.
Shiflett, the former co-owner of WYXC, said he alerted Rogers in February that FCC records had not been updated to reflect the change in ownership. Shiflett provided a copy of this Feb. 25 email exchange with Rogers:
Shiflett: Just checked the FCC website and noticed the ownership info for Clarion has not been updated??? Also the LMA [lease management agreement] you entered into must be filed with FCC.
Rogers: thanks for the heads up. Tommy told me he filed necessary paperwork with FCC. I will follow up with him.
It’s unclear when Young, a former Adairsville city councilman, returned his half-interest to Rogers. In December 2012, Rogers signed the new management agreement with Detscher and the Underwoods on behalf of Beechwood Services Inc., identified as the parent company of Clarion Communications. Rogers has listed Beechwood as his wife’s business in financial disclosures filed as a legislator, most recently for 2011.
Young, after agreeing to discuss his involvement, failed to return subsequent telephone messages seeking comment.
Rogers still owns the land and building where WYXC is located, having filed a quitclaim deed ceding Clarion’s interest in the property last month.