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FCC Wants To Revoke License of Knoxville’s Only Black-Owned Radio Station

The Federal Communications Commission is looking to revoke the license of the Knoxville radio station once owned by James Brown. The media authorization body has invoked its radio license holders’ character clause to shut down the independent company that stands as one of only six Black-owned stations in Tennessee.

Joe Armstrong (Screenshot Institute for Justice)

Radio station WJBE is in jeopardy of losing its license after the FCC moved to investigate whether its current owner, Joe Armstrong, a former state representative from east Tennessee, is fit to have a station based on “the requisite character qualifications” to control the frequency,” the Tennessee Lookout reports.

Armstrong has served Knoxville and parts of east Tennessee since being elected in 1988 and purchased the radio station while he was still in office in 2012. In 2016, he was convicted of submitting a false statement on his 2008 tax return and failed to disclose more than $300,000 in income from the sale of cigarette tax stamps.

Prosecutors said Armstrong and his accountant conspired with each other to disguise the profit his company made from a cigarette tax stamp hike — legislation the former elected official helped pass when he served in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1988 to 2016.

The ex-congressman’s character came into question in 2017 after he revealed to the agency, he was found guilty of making false statements on his tax returns the year before. Armstrong was sentenced to house arrest, probation, community service, and paying back the IRS, penalties he has since completed. 

According to the clause, which the FCC says is among the most important factors in issuing a license, the state rep’s conviction is in violation of the code of conduct rules. It further disqualifies him from running and being elected to public office in the state.

The notice from the FCC was received in March 2022, said Armstrong, and he was shocked when it arrived, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

Read more at Atlanta Black Star here.

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