Earlier this week, I posted a Top Ten list of legal issues that should keep a broadcast station operator up at night. In two orders released today, the FCC found stations where these issues apparently had not been keeping their operators awake, as the FCC issued fines for numerous violations. At one station, the FCC found that the EAS monitor was not working, the fence around the AM tower site was unlocked, and the station had no public inspection file, resulting in a $5500 fine (see the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau order here). At another station, the FCC inspectors were told that the station had no public file, and they also found the AM tower site fence unlocked, resulting in a $3500 fine (see the order here). These cases are one more example that, while broadcasters have plenty of big-picture legal and policy issues that they need to be concerned about, they also need to worry about the nuts and bolts, as the failure to observe basic regulatory requirements like tower fencing, EAS, and public file requirements can bring immediate financial penalties to a station.
The tower fencing issue is one that we have written about before. FCC rules require that public access be restricted to areas of high RF radiation, which are likely to occur at ground levels near AM stations. The FCC has many times issued fines for fences with unlocked gates, holes, or areas where there are gullies where a child could climb under the fence into the tower area. The FCC has been unwilling to accept excuses that the fence was locked "yesterday" or "last week" or at some other less defined time in the absence of proof, as they’ve heard that excuse many time. If the fence is open when they arrive, expect a fine.