Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana battles FCC for radio station

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied Augustana’s National Public Radio affiliate, WVIK 90.3, plans to build another radio station. WVIK, located on Augustana’s campus, is licensed to and owned by the college and serves as the Quad Cities region’s National Public Radio station. 

On Feb. 8, the FCC rejected Augustana College’s appeal for a construction permit for a non-commercial radio station in Dubuque, Iowa. 

In Nov. of 2021, the FCC Media Bureau created a filing window for an organization to build a brand-new radio station in Dubuque, titled “NCE MX Group 74.” WVIK applied for this radio station alongside another organization, the Vanguard Association of Sunbelt Colleges Corporation (VASC). 

According to a VASC statement of educational objectives, VASC is a Christian education organization whose goal is to promote innovative Christian education. The corporation applied for the FM broadcast license to broadcast educational material from a Christian perspective. 

This resulted in a “mutual application” between Augustana and VASC, or an application filed by two different organizations for the same frequency. Adam Jacobson, a radio industry journalist for Radio + Television Business Report who originally reported on the story, said the mutual application led to a contested process.

“You can’t have two stations on one frequency work very successfully,” Jacobson said. I know of two places in the United States off the top of my head where that exists: Dayton, Ohio, and Poughkeepsie, New York.”

According to Jacobson, the FCC determines which applicant receives the license through a point system. The more points the FCC gives an organization, the higher their chances are of receiving the station. VASC was awarded two points, whereas Augustana was awarded zero, according to a document from the FCC. 

However, the college decided to appeal this decision due to possible accounts of conspiracy. 

“Augustana tried to make the claim that the VASC application was a part of a scheme,” Jacobson said. “Designed by its technical consultant, Luke Rogers and he represents a religious broadcast named Elijah Radio. It was Augustana’s claim that Luke was trying to circumvent a 10-application cap in the November 2021 filing window for this brand new opportunity to build a radio station.” 

According to VASC’s website, the organization applied to at least eight stations alone during the Nov. 2021 window. 

Jared Johnson, the CEO and general manager of WVIK, said VASC’s application was a cause of concern.

“When the FCC makes decisions like this, we have a right to appeal. We took advantage of this opportunity,” Johnson said. “While there were a number of issues with Vanguard’s application, the most substantial issue seems to be that Iowa Public Radio is currently broadcasting from the same location they said they were planning to use.”

Iowa Public Radio, a noncommercial FM radio station that is licensed to schools in Ames, Iowa City and Cedar Falls and encompasses all of Iowa, also appealed the FCC’s decision for this reason. However, the FCC has still decided to carry this decision out. This allowed VASC to receive the construction permit for a new radio station.

“We are currently weighing our options and may very well appeal this decision one last time,” Johnson said.

However, Jacobson isn’t very hopeful about Augustana’s future with this specific opportunity.

“There’s really very little they can do. They could attempt to purchase an existing radio station, but as far as further challenges, the chances are slim,” Jacobson said

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