In a Notice of Apparent Liability, the FCC proposed a $14,000 fine on a broadcaster for a series of violations with respect to its tower. The FCC found that the station failed to have the required lights on the tower operating after sunset on at least two days, failed to notify the FAA of the outage (so that the FAA could send out a NOTAM – a notice to "airmen" notifying them to beware of the unlit tower), and failed to properly register the tower when the current owner acquired the station from its previous owner. As the tower had been sold over 3 years prior to the inspection that discovered the tower lights being out, the FCC determined that the violations were particularly egregious, and upped the fine – which would have been $10,000 for a failure to have the lights operating, and $3000 for failing to update the Antenna Structure Registration ("ASR") by an additional $1000. As noted below, updating tower registrations is considered very important by the FCC as, in another recent decision, the FCC proposed a $6000 fine merely for the failure of a licensee to update a tower registration. 

The case also showed the importance of keeping accurate records of the observation of tower lights. While the FCC did not specifically fine the station owner for not logging the tower light inspections, it did note that there was confusion between the station owner and engineer as to who was inspecting the tower lights and how often they were being inspected, when first asked by the FCC inspector. While records were later provided by the licensee that supposedly showed that the tower lights were inspected on a daily basis, the records were inconsistent and seemed to contradict the observations of the FCC inspectors. What do the rules require?


Continue Reading $14,000 FCC Fine for Tower Violations – Obstruction Light Out, No FAA Notification and Failure to Update Antenna Survey Registration to Report New Owner

Last week, I did a presentation on the issues facing broadcasters at the Kansas Association of Broadcasters annual convention (a copy of the slides from my presentation is available here).  I spoke about some of the day-to-day issues that can get broadcasters into trouble, as well as some of the big policy issues that broadcasters need to consider.  My presentation was preceded by a session conducted by the agent in charge of the Kansas City field office of the FCC, who emphasized the many issues that the field agents discover at broadcast stations that can lead to fines.  In the week since I returned from Kansas, it seems like the FCC has wanted to demonstrate the examples given by their agent, as there have been a large number of fines demonstrating the breadth of technical issues that broadcasters can face.  Fines (or "forfeitures", as the FCC calls them) were issued or proposed for issues ranging from faded tower paint, tower light outages, EAS problems, operations with excess power, and the ubiquitous (and very costly) public file violations.  Fines of up to $25,000 were issued for these violations – demonstrating how important it is not to overlook the day-to-day compliance matters highlighted in my presentation.

The largest of these fines was for $25,000.  This fine was imposed on a station for failing to have operational EAS equipment, not having an enclosed fence around the antenna site, and a missing public file.  The fine was originally proposed in a Notice of Apparent Liability (the first step in imposing an FCC fine, when the FCC spells out the apparent violation and the fine proposed, and the licensee is given time to respond to the allegations), released in July (see our post here).  The licensee failed to respond to the Notice of Apparent Liability, thus the fine is now being officially imposed.


Continue Reading A Host of FCC Fines of Over $20,000 for Technical and Tower Issues – And a Presentation on How to Avoid FCC Problems to the Kansas Broadcasters

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

The question of the environmental impact of the construction or significant alteration of a communications tower has been a matter of controversy for quite some time.  Three years ago, when conservation groups challenged the FCC’s procedures on the approval of towers and the consideration of the impact that such towers have on migratory birds, the US Court of Appeals ordered the FCC to include more public participation in the determination of whether those towers required detailed environmental studies ( an "environmental assessment" or an "EA") before they could be built.  This week, the FCC sought comments on their Draft Environmental Notice Requirements and Interim Procedures for its Antenna Registration Program.  These rules propose:

  • That, before an Antenna Structure Registration ("ASR") is issued by the FCC, any applicant must first give public notice of the construction in a local newspaper or other local media source.  The proposal will also be listed on the FCC’s website.  These notices are to allow the public to comment on the proposal.   
  •  If an EA is required, the FCC will process that assessment before the filing of the ASR
  • An EA will preliminarily be required for all requests for an ASR for towers of more than 450 feet to determine its impact on migratory birds, though the FCC may modify this requirement after further study.

This proposal is somewhat tracks the proposed requirements for an EA that were set out in a settlement agreement between many affected parties, including conservation groups, the NAB and CTIA – an agreement about which we wrote here.  That agreement, while conclusively requiring an EA for towers of over 450 feet, stated that towers between 351 and 450 feet would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and left open the question of whether an EA would be required for towers of 350 feet or less. 


Continue Reading FCC Requests Comments on Draft Requirements for Environmental Assessments of the Impact of Tower Construction – Including The Effect on Migratory Birds

In a recent decision, the FCC adopted new rules for AM station proofs of performance that make the process much simpler.  We wrote about this proposal when it was advanced, here.  The order adopted a week ago allows stations installing new series fed AM directional antennas to avoid the time-consuming and expensive process of