The FCC last week issued an order fining a broadcast  tower owner $2000 for failure to monitor the lights on its tower.  The FCC requires that a tower owner either monitor the tower by visual inspection or by a properly installed automatic monitoring system, at least once every 24 hours.  In this case, the tower owner had an automatic monitoring system installed on the tower, yet apparently its employees did not properly monitor the system  The monitoring of the automatic system was conducted during daytime hours, when no problem was indicated – but when the tower lights themselves were not lit.  During nighttime hours, the monitoring system did apparently warn that the lights were not all in operation, but the owner’s employees were not monitoring the system during those hours.  Essentially, the FCC found that a licensee must know how to monitor its own system and detect outages.  If there are outages and they are not caught within 24 hours, a licensee is looking for problems. 

As FAA and safety issues are high on the FCC’s list of enforcement priorities, communications tower owners should be sure that their systems are in operating order, and properly monitored, to avoid problems.  Safety issues can result in problems, even if the station has passed a review through an alternate inspection program, given the importance of these issues and their visibility – as tower lights that are not operating can easily be seen by an inspector of from someone associated with the aviation community.  So be sure that these issues are carefully monitored.