Among the many things that broadcasters need to remember when they buy a broadcast station is making sure that the tower registration (the "Antenna Structure Registration" or "ASR") for that station is transferred along with the rest of the station assets. Unlike most registrations and filings done at the time of the Closing of a sale of a broadcast station, the issue is not one of establishing the rights or title to any tower assets that are transferred with the station. Instead, the registration is to let the FCC know who is responsible for that tower in the event the FCC needs to get in touch with the owner to deal with tower lighting or fencing issues or similar matters. Many broadcasters may think that this transfer of the tower registration is automatically done when a station is sold, in connection with the FCC approval of the assignment of license or transfer of control. It is not – a separate filing on FCC Form 854 is necessary. In a decision just released by the FCC, a fine of $3000 was levied against a broadcaster whose tower was registered in the old owner’s name, 3 years after the tower and the stations that broadcast from that tower were sold to the current owner.
The base fine for an inaccurate tower registration is $3000. In this case, the FCC reduced a $6000 fine issued because two towers were not registered. As the two towers were part of a single AM station array, were physically adjacent to each other, and as the current owner was found easily when the station was called, the FCC reduced the fine to $3000. However, it noted that it could impose a higher fine if there was a more dangerous situation, or if a case arises where it is more difficult to find the real tower owner. We’ve written about similar fines before. The FCC views tower registration as very important. So make sure that the owner of your tower is accurately registered with the FCC – and don’t forget to update the sign at the tower site identifying the ASR, and make sure that the sign is kept in good repair and is visible from a publicly accessible location so that FCC inspectors or others can identify the tower they are looking at, as incorrect signage can increase the amount of any fine for tower site issues. Note that Section 17.4 of the Commission’s rules, which sets out the tower registration requirements, also requires that tower owners provide all tenants with the tower registration number. Observe these details, or risk an FCC fine.