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Colpa Files Suit with Fcc to Halt Sale of Wevd-am to Christian Group

A petition was filed today with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, opposing the sale of station WEVD-AM of New York, by the Forward Association, to a broadcasting group specializing in Christian religious broadcast programming, the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), reported.

Howard Zuckerman, COLPA president, said the suit was filed by Nathan Lewin, COLPA vice president, and David Butler, a volunteer attorney who is a member of COLPA’s Washington chapter. Zuckerman said it was the first time in its 10 years that COLPA has acted in this field of public litigation. Dennis Rapps, COLPA executive director, said COLPA undertook to try to halt the sale of WEVD-AM to the Salem Media Co. which owns a number of Christian program stations throughout the United States because the sale is not in the public interest — a federal law requirement — for a variety of reasons related to the more than 80 years of WEVD-AM broadcasting of programs of Jewish content in Yiddish and in English.

Butler said COLPA had learned that the AM frequency, which now broadcasts Jewish content programs from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. five days a week, will drop all such programs if the AM band is taken over by the Salem group.

TERMS UPGRADING PLANS INSUFFICIENT

Rapps said he had been told by the WEVD management that it plans to upgrade substantially the Jewish content program on WEVD-FM which the Forward Association would retain. He said he had raised the issue of how WEVD-FM could fit into its tight schedule of multi-lingual broadcasting — which currently includes Jewish programming only from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. — the four-and-a-half hours of such broadcasting now being aired daily on the AM band.

Rapps said that even if time could be found on the FM band for the present AM Jewish content programming, many elderly Jews either do not own radios with FM bands or never use the FM circuits. Also, he said, FM broadcasts, for technical reasons, do not reach many areas of Jewish population concentration, such as Monticello. N.Y., about 100 miles from New York City, which WEVD-AM does reach. He also reported that a survey of senior citizens centers in the New York metropolitan area indicated that the AM band is the one listened to by elderly Jews.

COALITION FORMED TO SAVE WEVD-AM

A “Coalition to Save WEVD-AM” has been formed to support the license fight planned through the FCC. Member agencies of the coalition include Agudath Israel, the National Council of Young Israel, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the United Jewish Council of the Lower East Side, and the Jewish Community Councils of Washington Heights in Manhattan, and of Brighton Beach and Crown Heights in Brooklyn, as well as a number of local Jewish institutions which sponsor programs in Yiddish and English on WEVD-AM.

Rapps filed an affidavit with the petition, required by the fact that he had negotiated with the Forward Association and the WEVD management. He said concerns about the quantity and variety of Jewish programs have not, at this paint, been satisfied by the stated plans for the FM band, if the sale is completed.

The Forward Association signed an agreement to sell the AM band to the Salem firm last May and applied for FCC approval on July 29. Any group with valid objections has 30 days to file a petition with the FCC opposing the transaction. The other party has 10 days to file a reply. The FCC had accepted the application of the Forward Association for sale of the AM band to become effective Jan. 1, 1980. Radio and TV stations operate under FCC licenses which must be renewed annually.

Rapps said there will be no change in present WEVD-AM programming until the FCC ruling, which the FCC can make with or without a formal hearing. Meanwhile, COLPA reported, the coalition is directing a community-wide effort to collect a maximum number of signatures of listeners protesting the sale to submit to the FCC in connection with the petition.

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