2 Radio Stations' Licenses in Jeopardy Judge to Rule on Blacks' Hiring Complaint

Article excerpt

KFUO-FM and KFUO-AM, two of the St. Louis area's oldest radio stations, are in danger of losing their operating licenses.

Spurred by an NAACP complaint, the Federal Communications Commission on Feb. 1 said the two stations did not "maintain an equal opportunity policy" of recruiting black employees.

The FCC said the stations had hired only few blacks for 32 vacancies filled between Oct. 1, 1986, and Jan. 31, 1990. The exact number of blacks hired was unclear Thursday, and the station refused to elaborate.

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The FCC said the stations hired blacks for only two lower-level positions among 32 vacancies filled between Oct. 1, 1986, and Jan. 31, 1990. The agency's study covered that period.

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The FCC has sent the issue to an administrative law judge, who will determine whether the stations' employment practices actually discriminate against blacks and whether the licenses should be renewed or forfeited.

Another option is to fine the stations as much as $250,000. The judge is expected to take testimony at a hearing here June 6.

KFUO-AM (850) has been on the air since 1924 and broadcasts religious programs. KFUO-FM (99.1) started operating in 1948 and is the metropolitan area's only full-time classical music station. It promotes itself as Classic 99.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod owns the stations, which are based in Clayton.

A station spokesman said he believes the licenses will be renewed.

"There's absolutely no practice or policy of discrimination against blacks or any other minorities," said Dick Zaragosa, a lawyer in Washington who represents the stations.

Zaragosa and Dennis Stortz, manager of the two stations, declined further comment.

Officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said the FCC's decision to send the KFUO license renewals to a judge is a groundbreaking move nationally. …