Roger Wahl could almost run out of time to save his station.
The Federal Communications Commission has granted Meyersdale-based radio station WQZS (FM) owner and on-air personality Wahl several breaks in a proceeding to determine whether to revoke his license. But not more.
The fate of WQZS hangs in the balance with Wahl meeting or not meeting two FCC deadlines this month. WQZS, an oldies and rock stationis the last independent radio station in Somerset County and one of the few in the whole region.
The FCC’s ongoing investigation into Wahl began when he acquired a criminal record in 2020.
An FCC order issued Friday related to two separate motions filed by the commission’s enforcement office to compel Wahl to send information necessary for its proceedings.
According to an FCC order dated March 8, Administrative Law Judge Jane Hinckley Halprin was concerned that Wahl was not treating the proceedings with “appropriate seriousness” at the initial status conference. Parties are expected to abide by FCC rules, she said.
“No less than five times the presiding judge has made this clear during the brief duration of these proceedings,” Hinckley Halprin wrote.
Wahl is facing the potential revocation of his FCC license. It is “the most severe sentence the commission imposes on a licensee. Yet when the presiding judge ordered him to do something as simple as forward an email he had already sent, he did nothing,” the judge wrote in the discovery order.
“This procedure will not continue on this trajectory,” Hinckley Halprin wrote. “(Any) further failure to meet a time limit or follow an order of the presiding judge could form a basis for dismissal of this proceeding, which, in turn, will result in the revocation of his FCC license.”
Then she gave him one more opportunity to comply with FCC orders.
Why did the FCC get involved in WQZS?
In September 2019, Wahl was arrested and charged with creating a fake dating profile. He used it to solicit men to rape a woman he knew and was accused of placing a trail camera in the woman’s bathroom without her knowledge or consent.
In March 2020, Wahl filed a request to transfer control of WQZS to his daughter, Wendy Sipple, for $10. The FCC approved the transfer on June 1, 2020.
Wahl pleaded guilty on July 8, 2020 to a felony charge of criminal use of a means of communication and misdemeanor charges of recklessly endangering, unlawfully disseminating an intimate image, tampering with evidence and identity theft. The FCC reversed its decision in an order dated July 13, 2020, returning the application to pending status.
Wahl was sentenced on November 17, 2020. He was placed on probation for three years, with four months of electronic monitoring. He was also prohibited from being on the air during electronic surveillance.
On October 19, 2021, the FCC issued a Designation of Hearing Order beginning proceedings to revoke WQZS’s license following his crime. WQZS’ transfer request to Sipple has been put on hold.
The battle for airtime continues
Wahl has until Friday to file information that was first due to be released in March and then extended until Friday. He has until May 25 to respond to the FCC’s request for response to additional questions and documents.
On March 14 of this year, the enforcement office served Wahl with its first request for production of documents and other documents. Commission rules state that a response is due within 10 calendar days.
On March 26, in response to an email sent to him by the office after the due date, Wahl said he emailed the requested documents, but received a message error when he attempted to upload the documents to the Commission’s electronic comments repository. system, a requirement for documents to be considered filed.
The presiding judge accepted a corrected motion and extended the deadline to April 14. Additionally, Wahl’s document emails to the office were also to be downloaded and emailed to Hinckley Halprin or his special counsel by April 8. who said he was not computer savvy — the extra time in part because he is representing himself, which is allowed in this case, according to the order.
“To date, Mr. Wahl has not responded to the EB’s corrected motion to demand documents, nor has he uploaded the previously provided documents or emailed them to the presiding judge or to his special counsel as instructed,” Hinckley Halprin wrote.
Also on March 14, the enforcement office served interrogatories, a list of 38 questions, for Wahl to answer. On March 26, he filed a response in the commission’s electronic filing system.
In response, bureau officials sent him a detailed email identifying deficiencies in 12 of the questions in his submission, then decided to compel those responses by April 11. He never answered, according to the order.
He has until May 25 to send the requested documents, the judge wrote.
Follow Judy DJ Ellich on Twitter at @dajudye.