Group seeks denial of license renewal for Asheville’s WCQS-FM

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A local “Ad-Hoc Committee for Responsible Public Radio” led by longtime pubcaster Fred Flaxman is asking the Federal Communications Commission to deny the license renewal of WCQS in Asheville, N.C., charging that the station violated requirements to form a community advisory board and conduct listener surveys, according to the Citizen-Times. The station filed a response with the FCC saying that it is now in compliance. “The matters raised by the petition are not only outside the FCC’s jurisdiction but have along ago been resolved” by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, it said.

The station’s broadcast license, held by Western North Carolina Public Radio (WNCPR), would have been automatically renewed on Dec. 1, but the group’s petition to deny triggered an FCC review.

Flaxman, a producer who previously held executive positions at WTTW in Chicago, WETA-FM and TV in Arlington, Va., and KUAT-TV in Tucson, Ariz., told the newspaper that it “truly pains me to be fighting with a public radio station because I have devoted my career to public radio and television, and believe very strongly in the benefit to society. We’re not trying to drive the station off the air, we’re trying to have management that is responsible to the community it serves.”

The station said in its response to the FCC that a 2009 CPB review (PDF) “found that although WNCPR had not fully complied with all CPB requirements in the past, WNCPR had taken corrective action and had established a functioning (advisory board) that meets the act and CPB requirements.” But the complaint alleges that the board “is tightly controlled to make sure that no critics of the station or its policies or lack of policies are allowed to serve.” Flaxman said “radical changes” to programming were made without consulting the advisory board.

The complaint also states that the station doesn’t air programs created by local independent producers, including Flaxman, who produces a classical music program, Compact Discoveries. WCQS said in its filing that the petition to deny “leaves no doubt that by ‘local, independent producers of radio programming,’ Mr. Flaxman is thinking primarily of Mr. Flaxman.”

“It would be a travesty of the renewal process if petitions to deny could be used as a vehicle for forcing a broadcaster to advance the private interests of a potential program source, rather than the public interests of the community of license,” the station said.