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Bob Romanik faces FCC challenge

Bob Romanik is shown at his studio in Belleville, where his AM radio show reaches the St. Louis metropolitan area. Romanik, who takes pride in his controversial style, uses the Grim Reaper as his mascot.

The racist AM radio menace that is Bob Romanik could soon be history. The felonious Belleville talk show host is under fire from the Federal Communications Commission, which effectively charges that Romanik and his lawyer have lied in federal filings about Romanik’s de facto ownership and control of the stations broadcasting his talk show and commercial commentaries.

The FCC seriously frowns on granting licenses to liars and convicted felons like Romanik, and evidence cited in an FCC filing Wednesday suggests he has done everything possible to hide his true role to dupe the FCC into licensing AM station KQQZ and other broadcast facilities under Romanik’s umbrella. Attorney Dennis J. Watkins is the titular licensee as the trustee of Entertainment Media Trust, which was established by Romanik in 2006.

On a daily basis, Romanik uses racist and homophobic taunts, aimed particularly at major St. Louis-area political figures. Despite receiving a long list of public complaints, the FCC consistently responds that Romanik’s on-air hate speech doesn’t constitute grounds for license revocation. But lying on an FCC application to hide a station owner/operator’s criminal background does.

“Had Romanik identified himself as a party to (Entertainment Media Trust’s) applications and disclosed his felony convictions in those applications, the Commission would have undertaken a careful examination” of Romanik’s criminal background, FCC Media Bureau Chief Michelle Carey stated in ordering this case to be heard by an administrative law judge.

The technicality is similar to the strategy of prosecuting gangster Al Capone for tax evasion. It doesn’t give the public the satisfaction of punishing Romanik for his outrageous on-air conduct, but the result — removing him from the public airwaves — would be the same.

Watkins now must prove to a judge that he is worthy to keep the stations’ license despite apparently having conspired with Romanik to hide the truth. So far, he and Romanik have been unable to provide sufficient documentation, such as state and federal tax returns, to demonstrate that someone other than Romanik is in charge. Mounds of paperwork obtained by the FCC, however, point to Romanik as the true boss.

Romanik is his own worst enemy on that score, having run repeatedly for public office and filed campaign-finance records in both Missouri and Illinois declaring himself as “radio station owner.” He has used his radio program to promote his campaigns but never reported the free air time in campaign filings as an in-kind donation, as required by law.

Additional testimony and paperwork regarding business operations carry Romanik’s name and imprint. But when challenged by the FCC to provide evidence of Watkins’ or others’ involvement in running the stations, none was forthcoming, the FCC complaint says.

It’s long past the time for Romanik to fade into obscurity. Judging from the feeble and sickly sound of Romanik’s voice in his recent broadcasts, it appears he has lost the energy to keep fighting. Good riddance.