FCC Investigates Los Angeles Broadcasters for Possible RF Safety Violations

If anyone doubted the FCC's seriousness about enforcing RF hazard regulations, a surprise inspection at Los Angeles' Mt. Wilson -- including the brief shutdown of several FM and television signals -- should silence the skeptical.

On July 11, about six FCC enforcement staff visited Mt. Wilson, one of the nation's most crowded tower clusters, and took readings, looking for RF hot spots that might violate public-safety rules. The next day, according to people familiar with the situation, they returned for more readings to determine which station, if any, was exceeding its 5-percent share of the aggregate RF radiation. To do this, they had each station cut its power off completely for a brief time (during the high-audience afternoon).

The FCC, according to an engineer at the site who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not say if any stations were in violation, but is analyzing the results.

Jerry Ulcek, a Denver-based FCC enforcement officer, oversaw the action. He referred questions to an FCC official in Washington, D.C., who said he would not comment on any ongoing investigations, nor confirm whether any investigation is ongoing.

But engineers involved with the investigation told Robert Gonsett, publisher of the CGC Communicator, an industry newsletter, about the investigation, and an engineer at the scene confirmed CGC's account.

One engineer told TV Technology that he gives credit to the FCC for a cooperative attitude in the matter, and that the numerous stations involved reached an understanding that they might need to cooperate when the safety of the public or of tower climbers is at issue.

"I feel encouraged that the commission has made their point clear to everyone up there," the engineer said.

As reported in TV Technology on July 10, Ulcek told engineers at a conference in April that the enforcement office would get serious about RF violations and ensure compliance with standards that became effective in September 2000.

The FCC's action at Mt. Wilson only concerned areas where the public might be -- a private driveway with its chain down seemed to be the hot spot -- but FCC officials told the engineers that they should cooperate on climber safety as well.