By Chris Dell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
The Rocket radio station recently received an unwelcome blast of fines from Federal Communications Commission.
The fines were handed down for a series of violations that date back six years, drawing applause from one of the station’s competitors and even a former board member.
KEIF-LP, a low-power FM station licensed to Enid Public Radio Association, was fined $5,000 for selling advertisements and $5,000 for broadcasting from an antenna that was almost double the legal height. Low-power FM stations are only allowed to broadcast nonprofit educational programming from an antenna height of 33 meters.
According to an FCC report, KEIF, which brands itself as 104.7 The Rocket, was distributing advertising rate cards to local businesses and broadcasting promotional advertisements on its station. The rate card stated The Rocket’s “classic rock” format offers “great result for your advertising dollar,” according to the report. The report also alleges the station broadcast from an antenna height of nearly 62 meters. Chisholm Trail Broadcasting, which owns several stations in northwest Oklahoma, blew the whistle on The Rocket in May 2005.
“Specifically, we find sufficient evidence of violations of the Commission’s enhanced underwriting and technical rules that, when considered together, evidence a pattern of abuse,” the report stated.
Scott Clark, The Rocket’s chief engineer, declined comment Friday, except to say, “We’re not going off the air, ever.”
Clark said he will hold a press conference next week to officially announce the station’s plans. Meanwhile, The Rocket continues to broadcast on 104.7 FM.
The station has 30 days to pay the fine and 90 days to lower its antenna to the legal height, according to FCC.
Abuse was from the beginning
Former board member Steve Allen said the pattern of abuse was evident from the time the station earned its license from FCC in 2000. Allen and Richard Cox served on The Rocket’s board of directors until 2002, when they resigned “just to keep from being liable for what the station was doing,” said Allen, who is a former vocalist for the local band Sweet Misery.
Allen said the station, which was licensed to broadcast educational programming, was airing classic rock music from the beginning. He said Clark, who founded the station, hand-picked a board of directors so the station would be eligible for a license, but the board never met.
Allen also said Clark refused to recognize his resignation.
“I knew this was going to happen one of these days,” Allen said. “I have a very, very good name around here, and I don’t want my name dragged through the mire because of that station.”
FCC had a long history of tracking other allegations made against the station.
The Rocket landed in hot water with FCC in 2004, when it was confronted about its advertising policies.
Despite a slap on the wrist, The Rocket did not stop commercial advertising. In fact, commissioners with FCC, who were following up on a complaint from CTB, reported hearing some of the same advertisements on the station in 2007 they had heard three years earlier.
Chisholm Trail Broadcasting is especially relieved to learn about the FCC’s sanctions.
CTB first complained about The Rocket five years ago after it failed to comply with the FCC’s demand to remove its commercial advertisements in 2004. The station’s general manager, Sandy Daniels, said Allen and Cox approached the station and told them to report The Rocket for “knowingly breaking the rules,” she said.
“Even the FCC gave them time to make changes, and they didn’t do it,” Daniels said. “It just baffles me.”
Daniels said she has been contacted by other station managers in the area who have expressed their relief. They were particularly frustrated they had an extra competitor in the advertising business that legally was not allowed to be there.
Not all saw The Rocket as a legitimate threat, though. Dan Smith, general manager at 103.1 KOFM in Enid, a country station owned by Williams Broadcasting, said one of the station’s advertisers in-formed him about a year ago of The Rocket’s selling in the area. However, the station didn’t file a formal complaint.
“They didn’t really affect our advertising dollars or our signal,” he said. “Anybody can go apply for low-power FM station, and it’s a great thing for FM service. But when someone turns it into a for-profit or commercial-type station, they don’t understand media or broadcasting.”