The owner of Gainesville’s local radio station says he’s been denied a custom license plate with the station’s call letters on what he considers “silly” grounds.

Steve Eberhart, owner-operator of KGAF Radio, said he received a letter denying his application for a license plate reading “KGAF” on the grounds that the letters are considered objectionable. He had applied for the license plate just over two weeks ago for a vehicle the station recently bought to replace its old one.

In response, he received an email stating the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles had declined the custom plate because “the pattern is considered objectionable or misleading or could be viewed directly or indirectly as vulgar (swear or curse words),” one of two criteria the DMV cited. In a copy of the letter Eberhart provided to the Register, the DMV said the plate had also been declined under a criterion prohibiting patterns that are considered objectionable or misleading or could be viewed as a representation of law enforcement, the military or other governmental entities and their titles.

Eberhart said Monday, Jan. 20, he had appealed the decision and expected a response in about four weeks.

It was his first time applying for a personalized license plate on KGAF’s behalf, he said. When he received the denial, he said, his first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Is this a joke?”

A call to the Texas DMV’s media relations office went to voicemail Monday. An automated reply to an emailed media inquiry indicated the office was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit newsroom covering state politics and government issues, reported earlier this month the Texas DMV approves about a thousand custom license plates each week but rejects hundreds of requests considered lewd or inappropriate.

Eberhart told WFAA his teenage son explained to him the vulgar interpretation that likely triggered the DMV’s denial.

It’s not the kind of language he routinely uses, he told the Register. “We’re not allowed to on the air and it’s derogatory for us, to suggest that would be what it was intended to mean to begin with.”

Under federal law, obscenities are prohibited on radio and TV, according to a Federal Communications Commission consumer guide on obscene, indecent and profane broadcasts.

Eberhart said he supposed that DMV authorities issuing the denial weren’t aware the application was from a radio station — though, he added, the application showed the plate was intended for a vehicle registered to his company, Eberhart Broadcasting.

“KGAF was licensed by the federal government in 1947,” Eberhart noted. “Certainly nobody in government at that time envisioned the letters would mean that, nor did we.”

Since Eberhart received the letter, KGAF has been running promotions announcing “Despite what the DMV may think, we actually do GAF,” Eberhart said, “in a further attempt just to make fun of them.”

He’s heard from several other members of the radio industry as well as listeners who have chimed in both at the station and on social media, he said.

“Everybody looks at it pretty much the same way I do, which is silly, stupid, and has the world really come to this?” Eberhart added. “The answer is, I guess it has.”

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