FCC Operational Fines Serve as Reminders

Basic rule violations can be costly
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WASHINGTON:The FCC issued several fines earlier this month for violation of basic operational rules, noted David Oxenford, a media attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine.

“As there many FCC rules to observe, broadcasters should use the misfortune of others who have suffered from these fines as a way to check their own operations to make sure that they meet all of the required commission standards,” he wrote on the firm’s BroadcastLawBlog.“In the recent cases, fines were issued for a variety of violations, including the failure to have a manned main studio, the failure to have a working EAS system, incomplete public files, operations of an AM station at night with daytime power, and the failure to have a locked fence around an AM tower.”

Oxenford said the studio violation was straight forward. FCC inspectors went to the main studio of WFBZ-AM and found the doors locked and no one home.

“The FCC agent found during his May 23, 2007, inspection that the station’s purported main studio in Onalaska, Wis., which needed to be unlocked by the station’s engineer, had assorted non-operational broadcast equipment lying on the floor, no physical radio link or landline telecommunications data link to the WFBZ transmitter, and no employees in the office at that time,” the FCC forfeiture order stated.

Station personnel said they were in the process of installing gear in the studio for the recently acquired station, but hadn’t completed the job yet. The FCC said no dice.

“The commission’s main studio rules require that there be at least two station employees for whom the studio is their principal place of business,” Oxenford wrote. “I like to think of it as the place where these employees have their desks with the pictures of their kids or their dog, as the case may be, and where they show up in the morning to drink their morning cup of coffee before heading out to do sales, news or whatever their job may be.

“At least one of the two employees who report to the studio as their principal place of business must be a management-level employee, and at least one of those employees must be present during all normal business hours. Thus, the studio should never be devoid of human life.”

Oxenford’s full post is available at Davis Wright Tremaine’s Broadcast Law Blog site.