reporting outage of tower lights to FAA

Last week, the FCC announced a Consent Decree with a Florida broadcaster, with the broadcaster admitting violations of several FCC rules and agreeing to pay a $125,000 fine and enter into a consent decree to ensure future compliance.  The violations addressed in the decree include (i) the failure to monitor tower lights and report that they had been out for significant periods of time, (ii) the failure to update the Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) of the tower to reflect that the broadcaster was the owner, (iii) not following the announced rules in conducting certain contests, and (iv) broadcasting seemingly live content that was in fact prerecorded, without labeling the programming as having been prerecorded.  While the details of the violations are provided in only summary fashion, these violations all serve as a reminder to broadcasters to watch their compliance – and also highlight the apparent interest of the FCC in enforcing the rule on seemingly live but prerecorded content, a rule rarely if ever enforced until this year.

Looking at the contest violations first, the Consent Decree gives a general description of the contests in question in a footnote.  One contest was apparently a scavenger hunt.  The station had intended for the contest to run for an extended period, but a listener found the prize soon after the on-air promotion began.  To prolong the on-air suspense, the station agreed with that listener to not reveal that she had won.  The station continued to promote and seemingly conduct the contest on the air for some time, until finally awarding the prize to the original winner.  In another contest, the station gave prizes to people who called in at designated times during the day.  According to the allegations in the Consent Decree, fake call-ins were recorded by the station to be broadcast during times when there were no live DJs.  As we have written before (see our articles here and here), the FCC requires that stations conduct on-air contests substantially in the manner set out in the announced rules for that contest – and the broadcasts about the contest cannot be materially misleading.  The FCC concluded that these contests did not meet that standard, and also found another problem with those prerecorded call-ins to the station.
Continue Reading $125,000 FCC Penalty to Broadcaster for Tower Structure and Contest Rule Violations – Including Violation of Rule Against Broadcasting Seemingly Live Recorded Programming Without Informing Listeners

A few weeks ago, we wrote about several recent cases where tower owners were fined for not having their towers lights working in the manner that was required by their licenses.  In another case released this week, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau decided that a $20,000 fine was appropriate for a tower owner in Alaska

In two separate Orders today, the FCC issued monetary forfeitures against a cable operator for failure to install Emergency Alert System (EAS) equipment and for various tower violations.  These same violations could have been cited against a broadcaster, so these cases are instructive to both broadcasters and cable operators.  The FCC issued monetary forfeitures of $20,000 and $18,000 against two Texas cable systems owned by the same company.  In both cases, the cable operator failed to install EAS equipment, failed to notify the FAA of a tower lighting outage and failed to exhibit red obstruction tower lighting from sunset to sunrise.   The higher fine related to a system’s failure to display a tower’s Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) number "in a conspicuous place so that it is readily visible near the base of the antenna structure."  

These same requirements apply equally to broadcast stations that have their own towers.   While most broadcasters are aware of the requirement to maintain working EAS equipment, many may not know that  FCC rules require a tower’s ASR to be conspicuously displayed at the base of the tower.  To be compliant, the ASR must be displayed on a weather-resistant surface and of sufficient size to be easily seen at the base of the tower.


Continue Reading FCC Fines for No EAS Equipment, Unreported Tower Light Outage, and No Posting of ASR