It seems as though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is using a radio station owner’s past from nearly two decades ago against him.
After using all of his savings to buy WJBE (1040AM) — once owned by the late music legend James Brown — in 2012, Joseph Armstrong has been running the only Black-owned radio station in Knoxville, TN, CBS News reports.
“I saw that there was a need,” Armstrong told the outlet. “It was almost embarrassing when people asked, ‘Where’s your Black station?'”
Over 10 years after making the purchase, the FCC has brought forth Armstrong’s previous felony conviction based on its “Character Policy.”
Back in 2007, Armstrong filed a false statement on a tax return and was sentenced for it in 2017. However, the presiding judge stated that he “led an exemplary life until this occurrence.” In addition, it was noted by retired U.S. Chief Probations Officer Tony Anderson that Armstrong was compliant throughout his probation and a “well-respected individual” in his city.
Despite the positive feedback regarding Armstrong, the FCC is questioning whether or not he can continue to be the licensee of WJBE. According to the outlet, the station failed to meet the independent agency’s required deadlines including filing the “Issues and Programs” list.
However, Armstrong’s counsel used FCC data to show that almost a third of the AM stations failed to do the same yet still had their licenses renewed.
“In no way did I ever attempt or intend to hide anything from the Commission, instead, I missed these filing deadlines because of WJBE’s small staff, administrative oversight, and my poor health at the time,” Armstrong stated.
While Armstrong is working to prove his case of being a responsible licensee, the FCC claims to be sticking to protocol.
“The Commission has a duty to ensure that everyone holding a license to use the public airwaves does so in the public interest,” Paloma Perez, the FCC press secretary, wrote. “It is longstanding practice that any licensee with a felony conviction be placed into hearing in order to examine whether the licensee has the requisite character qualifications to remain a trustee of the public airwaves.”
She continued, “In order to evaluate these factors, and to provide due process to the licensee, any licensee with a felony conviction is placed into hearing, usually at the time of the licensee’s renewal application.”