×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kennard races into jam

FCC chair accused of abusing office after favor to station

WASHINGTON — FCC chairman Bill Kennard just can’t get a break. Having tried to do a favor for a Republican congressman and 100,000 car racing fans, he now stands accused of abusing his authority.

Last week a senior FCC official declared that Kennard has allowed political favoritism to get in the way of the agency’s enforcement of its own rules.

At issue is a decision by Kennard to overrule local FCC officials in Texas and allow the owner of a race track to broadcast a relatively weak TV and radio signal to 100,000 people at a weekend NASCAR event.

When the local FCC officials forced the race track owner, Billy Meyer, to shut down the TV and radio broadcast, he warned them he would complain to his congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Kennard, according to a complaint filed by Richard Lee, who at the time of the incident was the chief of the compliance and information bureau.

Back on the air

Meyer made good on his promise, leading to a flurry of calls between Kennard and agency staffers, the result of which was that Meyer was allowed to go back on the air. In a statement released Friday, Kennard said he made a “common sense” decision to allow the station to return to the air on the condition that it shut down as soon as the event was over.

Another serious allegation is that Kennard ordered FCC staffers to help Meyer apply for a license to operate a micro-radio station at his race track. According to Lee’s complaint, several FCC officials were uncomfortable with giving Meyer a license, but at Kennard’s direction, it was awarded anyway.

Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for an investigation of the “serious allegations” against Kennard. That investigation will be carried out by the agency’s inspector general.

Lee points out in his complaint that allowing Meyer to continue broadcasting to the fans at his Texas Metroplex raceway was clearly against agency policy. In fact, so-called pirate radio stations like the one operated by Meyer have been declared public enemy No. 1 by the FCC. More than 500 unauthorized broadcasters have been shuttered by the FCC during the last two years — under the direction of Kennard. The crackdown has led to demonstrations at the FCC and at the annual National Assn. of Broadcasters confab.

Meyer was clearly the exception. But unlike most pirate radio operators, Meyer is an active political campaign contributor. According to FCC records, Barton has received at least $2,000 from Meyer.

More Biz

  • Davan Maharaj Mel Gibson

    L.A. Times Publisher's Lawyer Was Accused of Extorting Mel Gibson

    The attorney who negotiated a $2.5 million exit package for L.A. Times publisher Davan Maharaj was previously accused of using secret recordings to extort actor Mel Gibson. Surreptitious recordings also figure in the Maharaj case. NPR reported on Wednesday that Maharaj taped Tronc chairman Michael Ferro. According to the report, Ferro was heard on the [...]

  • 'Blurred Lines' Suit Ends With $5

    'Blurred Lines' Suit Ends With $5 Million Judgement Against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams

    After five years, the legal battle over the copyright of the Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” has ended, with Marvin Gaye’s family being awarded a final judgment of nearly $5 million against the song’s primary writers, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, according to CNN and other reports. The pair were accused of copyright infringement [...]

  • WME Veteran Ari Greenburg Promoted to

    WME Veteran Ari Greenburg Promoted to President of Talent Agency

    WME veteran Ari Greenburg, one of the original Endeavor staffers who helped build the talent agency that became an industry powerhouse, has been promoted to president. Greenburg will oversee all daily operations across WME and its offices in Beverly Hills, New York, Nashville, London and Sydney. The promotion recognizes the role that Greenburg has played [...]

  • Alison Wenham Steps Down as CEO

    Alison Wenham Steps Down as CEO of WIN

    After 12 years at the helm of the Worldwide Independent Network, a global trade organization for the independent music industry, Alison Wenham is stepping down as Chief Executive, it was announced today. Prior to joining WIN full time in 2016 Alison was CEO of The Association of Independent Music (AIM), which she started in 1999. [...]

  • Leslie Moonves

    Leslie Moonves Quietly Exits AFI and Paley Center Boards

    Leslie Moonves, the ousted CEO of CBS Corp. who has been accused of sexual misconduct by several women, is no longer serving on the boards of trustees of the American Film Institute and the Paley Center for Media. For now, Moonves retains his seat on the board of gaming company ZeniMax Media. The appointments on [...]

  • DOJ Indicts Five in Piracy Ring

    Department of Justice Indicts Five in International Piracy Ring

    Five men were indicted Wednesday on charges that they hacked into the servers of production companies, and stole hundreds of films and TV shows, including “50 Shades of Grey” and “The Walking Dead.” The men are based in four countries — the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and India. Only one has been [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content