The Final Obstacles
Under normal circumstances, the process of a comparative hearing for a broadcast license is a long and expensive one. Add to that the FCC’s ruling of October 1952 which pinned any further appeals by WTOC, and an official grant to Brennan Broadcasting, to the approval of the NARBA – and the difficulties are magnify exponentially. As if those two road blocks were not enough, there would be three new legal obstacles put before the Commissions final grant of a construction permit for the Brennan station. Two would involve Jacksonville broadcasters attempting, in one way or another, to block the new station.
These obstacles were facilitated by FCC regulations which allowed for multiple applications, or complainants, to join in on the appeals process. Applicants could do so simply by alleging that there was a violation of the Communications Act by the original permittee. There would be three broadcasters which would attempt to throw up final roadblocks to the Brennan license using these regulations. On November 9, 1955
The first would be Emerson W. Browne, owner of WRWB in Kissimmee, FL, his wife Sarah and John A. Bowling. Operating under the corporate name Radio South, on November 9, 1955 they filed for a new radio station in Sanford, Florida. That radio station would operate on 690 kc with 1,000 watts daytime. With a distance to Jacksonville of just 105 miles, the FCC could only issue one permit.
John A. Bowling had a special interest in seeing the Sanford station through. Bowling was half owner of WQIK in Jacksonville, and a very outgoing broadcaster. In late 1955, Bowing proposed a “National Radio-Television Day”, but it is not what you might think. His proposal was for all broadcast activities to cease on January 2 to “serve as a reminder of the important part broadcasting plays in the everyday lives of people.”
The Sanford application was accepted for filing by the FCC. After full review by the Commission, was dismissed and no further action was found indicating any further appeals to the application of Radio South.
A North Carolina broadcaster known for his love of recording original bluegrass music would be the next, and the second, to file an application in this process. Ralph Epperson was the owner of WPAQ-AM in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Epperson would not make a direct run at seeing a license for Jacksonville. In his application which was filed on October 17, 1956, he proposed a new station for the Normandy suburb of Jacksonville. The station would operate with 10,000 watts daytime – less than the 25,000 which was granted to the Brennan’s. It took less than a month from the time the application was filed, for the FCC to return the application to Epperson, and no further action was taken.
Controversy plagued the NARBA approval process in the Senate through most of the early 1950’s. Ratification was so difficult that by February 1957, the US and Mexican governments negotiated a separate five-year agreement to govern the use of the AM band between the two countries. This agreement, and the known parameters contained in the pending NARBA treaty, may have been enough to move the FCC to action.
It had been nearly eight years since the FCC issued an opinion favoring Brennan Broadcasting over WTOC to build a new radio station on 690 in Jacksonville. The appeals by WTOC and the wrangling over the new NARBA treaty had burned through time and money.
Finally the day the Brennan’s had been waiting for had come. On February 27, 1957 the FCC granted a construction permit to Brennan Broadcasting to build the station with a power of 25,000 watts daytime only. This permit was a partial grant since the FCC still retained in hearing status, the Brennan request for nighttime operation on 690. There are no records to indicate that night operation would be from a separate site at this time. The call letters of the new station would be WJFL-AM.
Before ground could be broken, Brennan Broadcasting would face its fifth and final challenge (the third challenge from a broadcaster with ties to Jacksonville) to its quest for 690. This time it would be from another owner of a Jacksonville station.
Robert Rounsaville was one of the larger owners of broadcast licenses from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. His company owned prominent stations in many markets including Atlanta (WQXI), Miami (WMBM and later WFUN), Louisville, KY (WLOU) and Charlotte (WWOK). In November of 1955, Rounsaville filed an application for a new radio station to operate on 730 kc with 250 watts of power in Jacksonville. Shortly after filing the application, it was voluntarily withdrawn. On March 29, 1956, the FCC approved the transfer of ownership of WOBS from Carmen Macri to Rounsaville as part of a station swap. Marci would receive WWOK in Charlotte plus $50,000 in cash in exchange for the Jacksonville station.
Out to protect his new investment Rounsaville, almost immediately after the granting of the permit to Brennan, filed a petition for a rehearing of the grant proceedings. This challenge was short-lived. In early September 1957 the Commission issued a decision denying petition for rehearing filed by WOBS. This decision put all challenges to the construction permit for daytime operation to rest. October 2, 1957 the FCC recorded an official Action into its case Docket; Commissioner Ford abstained from the vote.
Brennan Broadcasting could now proceed forward with plans for its new station, WJFL.