Transmission Towers Category

FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Paul A. Cicelski

Posted March 29, 2013

By Scott R. Flick and Paul A. Cicelski

March 2013

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:

  • Delay in Providing Access to Public Inspection File Leads to Fine
  • FCC Fines Broadcaster for Antenna Tower Fencing, EAS and Public Inspection File Violations
Radio Station Fined $10,000 for Not Providing Immediate Access to Public File

This month, the Enforcement Bureau of the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Order ("NAL") in the amount of $10,000 against a Texas noncommercial broadcaster for failing to promptly make its public inspection file available. For the delay of a few hours, the Commission proposed a fine of $10,000 and reminded the licensee that stations must make their public inspection file available for inspection at any time during regular business hours and that a simple request to review the public file is all it takes to mandate access.

According to the NAL, an individual from a competitor arrived at the station at approximately 10:45 a.m. and asked to review the station public inspection file. Station personnel informed the individual that the General Manager could give him access to the public files, but that the General Manager would not arrive at the station until "after noon." The individual returned to the studio at 12:30 p.m.; however, the General Manager had still not arrived at the studio. According to the visiting individual, the receptionist repeatedly asked him if he "was with the FCC." Ultimately, the receptionist was able to reach the General Manager by phone, and the parties do not dispute that at that time, the individual asked to see the public file. During that call, the General Manager told the receptionist to give the visitor access to the file. According to the visitor, when the General Manager finally arrived, he too asked if the individual was from the FCC, and then proceeded to monitor the individual's review of the public file.

After the station visit, the competitor filed a Complaint with the FCC alleging that the station public files were incomplete and that the station improperly denied access to the public inspection files. The FCC then issued a Letter of Inquiry to the station, requesting that the station respond to the allegations and to provide additional information. The station denied that any items were missing from the public file and also denied that it failed to provide access to the files.

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FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick

Posted November 30, 2012

By Scott R. Flick and Lauren A. Birzon

November 2012

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:

  • FCC Punishes the Operators of an Unlicensed FM Station
  • FCC Investigates Antenna Structure Violations

Recurrent Unlicensed Operations Lead to Large Forfeitures

Last month, we wrote about a case in which the FCC fined the renter of a property after discovering an unlicensed radio transmitter, even though the renter claimed the equipment was operated by a third party. This month, the FCC again went after the renters of a property on which there was an unlicensed transmitter, issuing two $20,000 Forfeiture Orders. In this case, however, the renters left little doubt that they were directly responsible for the operation of the unlicensed radio station.

In October 2011, agents from the Miami office of the Enforcement Bureau identified the source of radio frequency transmissions on the 101.1 MHz frequency as an FM antenna mounted to a structure on a property in Florida. The signal strength exceeded that permitted for unlicensed broadcasting, and the agents later determined that no authorization had been issued for the operation of an FM broadcast station at that location. In addition, the agents were able to hear live broadcasts from the station and found that the on-air DJ was promoting the station on several web sites and Facebook pages.

During a subsequent February 2012 visit, the agents inspected the property and found radio transmitting equipment installed in a storage room. The property owner indicated that the space was rented by two men, and provided contact information for the renters to the agents. The agents called one of the renters, who asked the agents what would happen to the radio transmitting equipment. The renter contacted by the agents then called the other renter, who went to the station, told the agents the equipment was his, and removed the equipment from the location.

In July 2012, the FCC issued two $20,000 Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NALs) for operating without FCC authorization - one against the renter identified as the DJ of the station, and one against the renter who admitted it was his equipment. The base forfeiture for operating without authorization is $10,000. However, the FCC determined an upward adjustment of $10,000 was warranted for each of the renters because both had previously been involved in operating an unlicensed station on a different frequency in a different part of the state, and the FCC had issued previous Notices of Unlicensed Operation to the renters for that station.

Having not heard back from the renters in response to the July NALs, the FCC followed up the NALs by issuing two $20,000 Forfeiture Orders against the renters this month.

Faded Antenna Structures Garner Notices of Violations

Six towers in Oklahoma and one in New Mexico were the subject of Notices of Violation (NOVs) earlier this month after FCC agents noted that the paint on the towers was faded and chipped. Some of the NOVs also noted that the respective structure owners had failed to post the Antenna Structure Registration Number (ASRN) at the gate of the surrounding fence, and that any signage at the base of the structure was not visible from the gate of the fence.

In accordance with the rules of the FCC, owners of antenna structures must regularly inspect those structures to ensure the structures continue to comply with all FCC requirements. Indeed, the rules require owners to inspect the antenna structure's lights (manually or by automatic indicator) at least once every 24 hours, and to inspect all lighting control devices, indicators and alarms every three months. Owners must also maintain a record of any lighting malfunctions, including the nature of the malfunction, the date and time of the malfunction, the date and time of FAA notification, and the date, time and nature of repairs.

As this month's NOVs explicitly note, the FCC is free to take further steps against the tower owners, including issuing fines, and often does. Tower owners should therefore be careful to ensure that:

  • The ASRN is conspicuously displayed so that it is readily visible from the base of the structure;
  • Materials used to display ASRN are weather-resistant and large enough to be easily seen from the base of the structure;
  • Where the tower is surrounded by a fence, the ASRN is posted where it will be readily visible from the fence gate;
  • Antenna structures exceeding 200 feet are painted and lighted according to FAA specifications; and
  • Antenna structures are cleaned or repainted as often as is necessary to maintain good visibility.

FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick

Posted September 28, 2012

By Scott R. Flick and Lauren A. Birzon

September 2012
Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:

  • FCC Follows Up a $25,000 Fine With a $236,500 Fine
  • Two Tower Owners Fined for Fading Paint

FCC Issues Second Fine to Cable TV Operator for $236,500
As we previously reported in October 2011, the operator of a cable television system in Florida was fined $25,000 for a variety of violations of the FCC's Rules, including failing to install and maintain operational Emergency Alert System ("EAS") equipment, failing to operate its system within the required cable signal leakage limits, and failing to register the cable system with the FCC. This month, the FCC issued a second Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Order ("NAL") to the operator for continued violations of the FCC's cable signal leakage and EAS rules and for failing to respond to communications from the FCC requiring that the operator submit a written statement of compliance.

In January 2011, agents from the Tampa Office of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau inspected the cable system and discovered extensive signal leakage, prompting the issuance of a NAL in 2011. The FCC has established signal leakage rules to reduce emissions that could cause interference with aviation frequencies. Sections 76.605 and 76.611 of the FCC's Rules establish a maximum cable signal leakage standard of 20 microvolts per meter ("µV/m") for any point in the system and a maximum Cumulative Leak Index ("CLI") of 64. If potentially harmful interference cannot be eliminated, the FCC's Rules require that the system immediately suspend operations following notification from the FCC's local field office. Normal operations cannot resume until the interference has been eliminated "to the satisfaction of" the FCC's local field office.

In early September 2011, agents from the Enforcement Bureau conducted a follow-up inspection of the cable system. During the inspection, the agents discovered 33 leakages, 22 of which measured over 100 µV/m, and found that the CLI for the system was 86.97, well in excess of the maximum permitted. Two days after the inspection, the local field office issued an Order to Cease Operations, directing the cable system to cease operations until the leakages were eliminated and to seek written approval from the local field office prior to resuming normal operations. At the time of its issuance, the President of the cable system verbally consented to abide by the terms of the Order. However, the cable system operator never contacted the field office to seek approval to resume operations, and the field office has yet to approve further cable system operations.

Between September 2011 and March 2012, agents from the FCC inspected the cable system an additional five times. During those inspections, the agents found that not only had the cable system resumed operation without permission, but they once again observed numerous signal leakages during each inspection.

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FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick

Posted June 29, 2012

By Scott R. Flick and Lauren A. Birzon

June 2012
Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:

  • Long-Term Violation of an FCC Order Leads to $25,000 Forfeiture
  • FCC Issues $10,000 Fines for Obstruction Lighting Violations
Licensee Fined $25,000 for Failing to Pay $8,000 Four Years Ago

The licensee of an AM radio station in Puerto Rico was recently fined $25,000 for a string of failures to comply with an FCC Consent Decree issued four years ago, showcasing the FCC's irritation with unpaid fines.

In 2005, the Enforcement Bureau issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) for $15,000 against the licensee for failing to properly maintain a fence around its tower, violations related to the public inspection file, and operating with an unauthorized antenna pattern. Following the issuance of this first NAL, the FCC issued a Forfeiture Order which the licensee challenged, arguing that the forfeiture for the fencing violation should be reduced. The FCC eventually issued an Order lowering the penalty amount to $14,000, based on the licensee's efforts to comply with the FCC's antenna structure fencing requirements. Still unhappy with the FCC's decision, the licensee filed a petition for reconsideration of the Order, but ultimately entered into a Consent Decree with the FCC in 2008 terminating the investigation.

In the Consent Decree, the licensee agreed to make a "voluntary" contribution of $8,000 to the U.S. Treasury. The licensee further agreed to submit compliance reports for two years and to certify to the FCC that it is properly maintaining its public inspection file, operating its transmitters as authorized, and has repaired the fence surrounding its tower.

However, the licensee failed to pay the $8,000 or submit its compliance reports to the FCC. In 2010, two years after the Consent Decree, the licensee responded to a letter of inquiry from the FCC, noting that it had sent a check to the FCC to pay the $8,000, but that the check had bounced because the licensee had insufficient funds.

The FCC rejected this excuse, and in May 2011, issued an additional NAL against the licensee for $25,000 for failing to comply with an FCC Order. Notably, the FCC concluded that there is no base forfeiture for failing to comply with an FCC Order, and that it is therefore within the FCC's discretion to determine how serious the violation is and how large a penalty is warranted. In this instance, the FCC considered the licensee's violations to be egregious and determined that "'a consent decree violation, like misrepresentation, is particularly serious. The whole premise of a consent decree is that enforcement action is unnecessary due, in substantial part, to a promise by the subject of the consent decree to take the enumerated steps to ensure future compliance.'"

The licensee responded to the 2011 NAL, requesting that the forfeiture be cancelled due to the licensee's financial situation--the majority of the owner's companies had filed for bankruptcy and the licensee's sole owner was some $70 million in debt. Unfortunately for the licensee, the FCC rejected this request and proceeded to issue a Forfeiture Order this month for the proposed $25,000. In the Forfeiture Order, the FCC acknowledged that the licensee's financial situation indicated that it was unlikely to be able to pay the forfeiture. Nevertheless, the FCC considered the licensee's continuous violation of the terms of the Consent Decree to be a demonstration of "bad faith and a complete disregard for Commission and Bureau authority."

The licensee now has until mid-July to make the $25,000 payment, an amount significantly greater than the initial $8,000 contribution it was unable to pay in 2008.

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When Is a Coordinate Correction Just a Coordinate Correction?

Christine A. Reilly

Posted February 6, 2012

By Christine A. Reilly

Last Thursday, the FCC's Media Bureau issued a Letter Decision involving two disputed coordinate correction applications for a station's main and auxiliary antennas that, at least on paper, proposed to increase the short spacing to another radio station. In the Letter Decision, the Media Bureau spelled out the circumstances under which a requested coordinate correction, absent an actual change in facilities, will be approved by the Media Bureau.

Certain FCC applications and registrations require parties to specify the geographic coordinates for the site that is the subject of the filing. Examples of such FCC filings include applications for modifications to an AM or FM broadcast station on FCC Form 301 or 302, antenna and tower registrations on FCC Form 854, and applications seeking authorization to operate studio transmitter links on FCC Form 601. The Letter Decision emphasized that the coordinates supplied to the FCC should be accurate not only to prevent interference among stations, but also to avoid unanticipated and potentially costly disputes like the one discussed in this decision.

As detailed in the Letter Decision, a California broadcaster filed applications seeking to correct its main and auxiliary transmitter site coordinates on FCC Form 302-FM pursuant to the FCC rule that allows a station to correct its coordinates by no more than three seconds of latitude and/or longitude without requesting a new construction permit. The applications in question were opposed by a broadcaster in an adjacent market who argued that the applications to correct the coordinates would impermissibly increase the existing short spacing between the applicant's station and its station. While the correction of coordinates did technically reduce the stated distance between the stations, it did so by only 304 feet.

The Media Bureau stated in the Letter Decision that it is an "undisputed fact" that the coordinate changes proposed would increase the short spacing, but it decided to approve the applications because the increase in short spacing was negligible, or "de minimis." In doing so, the Media Bureau relied on a 1998 case involving a coordinate correction that proposed a "paper" change in coordinates of a similar distance (less than a tenth of a kilometer).

However, the Media Bureau also concluded that in assessing the distances between transmitter sites to determine whether a short-spacing is increased under the FCC's Rules, it will round distances to the nearest kilometer. Using this rounding methodology, the distance between the stations in the Letter Decision remained unchanged by the correction, since both the old and the new distances rounded to 221 kilometers, and therefore created no "change" in the short spacing between the stations.

The take away from the Letter Decision is that the Media Bureau will likely approve applications to correct coordinates that increase an existing short spacing where (i) the application is for correction of site data that does not involve an actual facility change; (ii) the correction raises no environmental or international (or other) issues; (iii) the difference between the authorized and corrected spacing involved is de minimis (keep in mind the only clear line even after the Letter Decision is that a tenth of a kilometer, or less, will be considered de minimis by the FCC); and (iv) a change of more than a tenth of a kilometer may be permissible where rounding to the nearest kilometer would indicate no change in the distance between stations.


FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted January 31, 2012

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:

  • Failure to Refresh Tower Paint Garners $8,000 Fine
  • FCC Levies $25,000 Fine for Failure to Respond
  • $85,000 Consent Decree Terminates Investigation Into Unauthorized Transfers of Control
Tower Owners Receive Harsh Reminder Regarding Lighting and Painting Compliance The FCC, citing air traffic navigation safety, has fined many tower owners for noncompliance with Part 17 of the Commission's Rules. Part 17 includes regulations pertaining to the registration, maintenance and notification obligations of tower owners. The base fine for violating Part 17 requirements is $10,000.

Part 17 supplements the notification obligations imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"). Section 17.7 of the FCC's Rules requires that certain tower structures, including most structures over 200 feet in height and those near airports or heliports, be registered with the FCC. Section 17.21 mandates that most towers over 200 feet be lit and painted in accordance with the FAA's recommendations. These recommendations include the use of orange and white paint (alternating bands) and red or white flashing, strobe or static lights.

With the recent release of two Notices of Apparent Liability ("NAL"), the FCC continued its pursuit of those who fail to comply with its tower rules, including Section 17.50, which mandates that any tower required to be painted in accordance with the FAA's guidelines or the FCC's Rules must be cleaned or repainted as often as necessary to maintain good visibility.

In the first of the two NALs, agents from the Dallas Field Office inspected a 402-foot tower located in Quanah, Texas and determined that the existing paint, which was faded, scraped, peeling or missing in certain areas, was insufficient. The NAL indicates that the agents were unable to distinguish between the orange and white bands from a "quarter mile from the [tower]", thereby "reducing the structure's visibility."

Shortly after the Quanah inspection, agents from the Dallas Field Office also inspected a 419-foot tower located in Durant, Oklahoma. The agents found a similar situation, where the tower's paint was faded, scraped, peeling or missing in certain areas. The agents were again unable to distinguish between the orange and white bands from "800 feet away from the [tower]", once again "reducing the structure's visibility."

The FCC levied the full base fine of $10,000 against each tower owner. The FCC also mandated that no later than 30 days after the release of the respective NAL, a "written statement pursuant to Section 1.16 of the Rules signed under penalty of perjury by an officer or director of [the tower owner] stating that the [tower] has been painted to maintain good visibility" be delivered to the Dallas Field Office.

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FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted December 1, 2011

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:


  • Malfunctioning Monitor Costs Broadcaster $10,000

  • FCC Fines Tower Owner $13,000 For Lighting and Ownership Issues

Faulty Remote Light Monitoring System Results in $10,000 Fine

According to a recent Notice of Apparent Liability ("NAL"), agents at the FCC's Norfolk Field Office received a complaint of an unlit tower from the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"). Two weeks later, agents from the Norfolk Field Office contacted the local Sheriff's Office for a visual confirmation of the tower's lighting status. A deputy indicated that all but one of the lights on the 700 foot tower were not functioning and that the only functioning light was located 100 feet from the ground.

Section 17.51 of the FCC's Rules requires certain structures to install and maintain red obstruction lighting. These lights must be functional between sunset and sunrise. The base fine for failure to comply with lighting and painting regulations is $10,000. Sections 17.47, 17.48 and 17.49 require structure owners to 1) inspect all automatic or mechanical lighting control devices at least every three months, 2) notify the FAA immediately of tower lighting malfunctions or extinguishments, and 3) maintain logs detailing any malfunctions or extinguishments.

The Norfolk field agents conducted an onsite inspection of the tower almost one month after receiving notification of the complaint from the FAA. The tower owner's contract engineer was present at the time of the onsite inspection. During that inspection, the agents confirmed that only one tower light was functioning and that the tower's remote light monitoring system was also malfunctioning. The NAL indicated that the consulting engineer admitted that the monitoring system had notified the tower owner that the top beacon was not functioning only six days prior to the onsite inspection. The tower owner notified the FAA at that time. The engineer also stated that the tower owner did not maintain tower logs detailing regular tower and control device inspections or instances of malfunctions.

In light of these failures, and the period of time over which they occurred, the FCC assessed a fine of $10,000 to the tower owner.

Reporting Failures Result in Fines Totaling $13,000

The registrant of an antenna structure in California was recently found liable for $13,000 for violations related to the antenna structure's red obstruction lighting and for failing to notify the FCC of the structure's change in ownership.

In response to complaints that the structure's obstruction lighting had failed, agents from the Los Angeles Field Office contacted the registrant of the structure. Section 303(q) of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 17.51(a) of the FCC's Rules require that antenna structures be painted with aviation orange and white and have red obstruction lighting indicating the top and midpoints of the structure. Upon inspection, however, the agent found that none of the structure's lights were functioning between sunset and sunrise. The Enforcement Bureau subsequently issued a Letter of Inquiry. In response, the registrant admitted that the lights were not operational for a period of two months, and he was unsure if he had notified the Federal Aviation Administration at the time of the outage, as required by Section 17.48 of the FCC's Rules. As noted above, the base forfeiture for failing to comply with the required lighting and painting standards is $10,000. Though the violation was "repeated" because the outage lasted two months, the FCC did not issue an upward adjustment of the penalty.

The FCC further found that the registrant had violated Section 17.57 of the FCC's Rules, which requires that tower owners immediately notify the FCC of any changes in ownership. The registrant assumed ownership of the structure in April 2008, but did not update the ownership information filed with the FCC until January 2011, after being contacted by agents from the Enforcement Bureau. The base forfeiture for violating the rules pertaining to tower ownership notifications is $3,000. As a result, the FCC tacked on an additional $3,000 fine, resulting in a total proposed fine of $13,000 for the tower owner.

A PDF version of this article can be found at FCC Enforcement Monitor.


FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted June 30, 2011

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:

  • FCC Fines FM Broadcaster an Extra $5,000 For Inaction

  • Inaccurate Tower Ownership Information Ends in $3,000 Fine

Failure to Heed an FCC Warning Regarding Public Inspection File Violations Results in $15,000 Fine
Following a routine inspection in April 2010, the Enforcement Bureau's Pennsylvania Field Office issued a Letter of Inquiry ("LOI") regarding the contents of a Pennsylvania FM station's public inspection file. According to a recently released Notice of Apparent Liability ("NAL"), all of the station's issues/programs lists for the current license term, a total of 15 quarters, were unaccounted for in the station's public inspection file at the time of the inspection. Section 73.3526(e)(12) of the FCC's Rules requires broadcasters to place in their public inspection file each quarter a list of programs that have provided the station's most significant treatment of community issues. The base forfeiture for violations of Section 73.3526 is $10,000.

In its response to the LOI, the FM broadcaster admitted that the quarterly issues/programs lists were unavailable on the day of the inspection. The FM broadcaster indicated that it was evident "a person or persons had gone through the file and that some of the items had been removed" and was "committed" to bringing the station's public inspection file into compliance.

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FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted May 26, 2011

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:


  • FCC Fines FM Broadcaster for Excessive Power and RF Radiation Levels

  • Forfeiture More Than Triples After Consent Decree Default

Missing Fence Yields $10,000 Fine for Utah FM Broadcaster
During a routine inspection in April 2010, Denver field agents cited a Utah FM broadcaster for excess radio frequency radiation ("RFR") exposure and failure to operate the station as authorized by the FCC. The citations resulted in a combined $14,000 fine.

According to the Notice of Apparent Liability ("NAL"), the station and its antenna tower were located at the top of a hill easily accessible by foot and all terrain vehicles. The station and tower were enclosed by a chain link fence, but access from the base of the hill to the station's fence was unobstructed. The field agents visited the station on two separate occasions and determined that the station was exceeding permitted RFR exposure levels, with actual RFR ranging from 165 to 315% of the legally acceptable levels at distances between 12 and 28 feet outside the chain link fence. At the time of the inspection, Denver field agents did not observe any posted RFR warning signs on or near the site. Failure to maintain acceptable levels of public RFR exposure is a direct violation of Section 1.1310 of the FCC's Rules, which mandates that broadcasters comply with the RFR exposure limits established by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements as outlined in the tables provided in the FCC's Rules.

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FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted April 28, 2011

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Headlines:

  • FCC Begins to Move on Pending Video News Release Complaints
  • Failure to Monitor Tower Lighting Results in $12,000 Penalty

Video News Releases Garner $4,000 Fines for Two Television Broadcasters

After a flurry of complaints from advocacy groups a few years ago raised the issue at the FCC, the Commission has been pondering how to treat Video News Releases (VNRs) with respect to its sponsorship identification rule. The result has been a growing backlog of enforcement investigations involving VNRs. However, the release of two decisions proposing fines for stations that aired all or part of a VNR without identifying the material on-air as being sponsored appears to indicate that the dam is about to break. In its first VNR enforcement actions in years, the FCC fined two unrelated television stations $4,000 each for violating the sponsorship identification requirements found in Section 317 of the Communications Act and Section 73.1212 of the FCC's Rules.

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FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted March 21, 2011

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:


  • Florida FM Translator Fined $13,000 for Unauthorized Operations

  • Latest Public Inspection File Violation Nets Upwardly Adjusted Fine

  • Failure to Monitor Inactive Tower Results in $6,000 Penalty


Failure to Operate as Authorized Costs Florida Broadcaster an Additional $4,000

A recent FCC Notice of Apparent Liability ("NAL") for $13,000 against a Florida broadcaster serves as a costly reminder that stations must operate in accordance with the FCC's Rules, and more notably, as specifically authorized in their station license. According to the NAL, the Florida broadcaster failed to heed a verbal warning from Tampa field agents that its station was operating beyond the technical parameters of its authorization. The NAL stated that the Tampa field agents, pursuant to an investigation and following two complaints, took field strength measurements on five separate occasions and visited the station's transmitter site on two separate occasions over approximately 11 months between October 2009 and September 2010. Field measurements undertaken in October 2009 and early February 2010 indicated that the station was operating with a power level well in excess of its authorization in violation of Section 74.1235(e) of the FCC's Rules, which states, "[i]n no event shall a station authorized under this subpart be operated with a transmitter power output (TPO) in excess of the transmitter certificated rating and the TPO shall not be more than 105 percent of the authorized TPO."

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FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted January 20, 2011

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:


  • Antenna Structure Owner's Failure to Act Results in $25,000 Fine

  • FCC Fines Microwave Licensee $15,000 for Late-Filed Renewal

  • AM Broadcaster Receives Reduced Fine for EAS Violation


FCC Fines Texas Antenna Structure Owner for Multiple Ongoing Antenna Structure Violations

In January 2010, a Houston Field Office agent responding to a complaint inspected a 253 foot antenna structure located in Yorktown, Texas. According to the Notice of Apparent Liability ("NAL") issued by the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"), the antenna structure was unlit and unidentifiable at the time of inspection, in violation of Section 17.51 and Section 17.4 of the FCC's Rules. The field agent later determined that the antenna structure owner had failed to notify (1) the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") of the lack of tower lighting, thereby violating Section 17.48 of the FCC's Rules, and (2) the FCC of a change in ownership of the antenna structure, which violated Section 17.57 of the FCC's Rules.

Following the initial inspection, in an effort to maintain public safety and avoid hazards to aircraft, the field agent requested that the FAA issue a Notice to Airman ("NOTAM") about the tower's lack of lighting. The field agent also contacted the antenna structure owner to discuss the violations discovered during the inspection. In a subsequent inspection, some eight months later, the field agent determined that none of the violations had been cured by the antenna structure owner. Again, the field agent contacted the FAA with a request to reissue another NOTAM regarding the unlit antenna structure.

Section 17.51 establishes that obstruction lighting must be functioning between sunset and sunrise. Section 17.4 requires antenna structure owners to display the ASR number in a "conspicuous place so that it is readily visible near the base of the antenna structure." Section 17.48 requires antenna structure owners to notify the FAA in the event that a structure's lights are malfunctioning or inoperable for more than 30 minutes. Section 17.57 establishes, among other things, that an antenna owner must immediately notify the FCC of any change in the ownership of the structure.

The base fines for the violations discussed above are $10,000 (lighting and FAA notification), $2,000 (displaying ASR) and $3,000 (failure to notify FCC of ownership change). Based on the antenna owner's lack of responsiveness, the FCC upwardly adjusted the fines to $15,000, $4,000 and $6,000, for a total forfeiture of $25,000.

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FCC Enforcement Monitor

Posted November 19, 2010

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. In fact, FCC Enforcement Monitor actually predates the creation of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, which came into being just a few months after the first issue was published. This month's issue includes:

  • FCC Increases Fine to $25,000 for Broadcaster's Violations Related to Time Brokerage Agreement

  • Upward Adjustment in EAS Portion of Multiple Violation Fine Results in Total Forfeiture of $25,000

  • Noncommercial Broadcaster Fined $7000 for Late-Filed License Renewal Application

FCC Fines Florida Broadcaster $25,000 for Repeated Failure to Maintain Full-Time Personnel and Make Available a Complete Public Inspection File at Brokered Station

In September 2009, following a complaint, agents from the Enforcement Bureau's Tampa Field Office conducted an inspection of a Florida AM station. According to the Notice of Apparent Liability ("NAL") issued by the FCC, the AM broadcaster failed, for the second time within three years, to maintain the required number of full-time employees at its main studio in violation of Section 73.1125(a) of the FCC's Rules, and to maintain a complete public inspection file, which violates Section 73.3526 of the FCC's Rules.

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FCC Seeks Comment on Possible Revisions to Its Rules Regarding the Construction, Marking, and Lighting of Towers

Posted May 24, 2010

By Scott R. Flick, Lauren Lynch Flick and Paul A. Cicelski

5/24/2010
The FCC recently released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NPRM") proposing to revise and streamline its Part 17 rules regarding construction, marking, and lighting of antenna structures. Pursuant to the Federal Register publication that occurred today, Comments are due on July 20, 2010, with Reply Comments due on August 19, 2010.

According to the FCC, the NPRM's proposed rule changes are intended to improve safety for pilots and airplane passengers while also "updating and modernizing" the rules by removing outdated requirements currently included in Part 17 of its Rules. The FCC states that the proposed clarifications and amendments to the Rules will allow antenna structure owners to more efficiently and cost effectively ensure rule compliance. The NPRM is largely based upon a Petition for Rulemaking filed by the Wireless Infrastructure Association seeking changes to Part 17 of the Rules.

The FCC's rules require owners of antenna structures (rather than the FCC licensees and permittees utilizing those structures) to register certain types of antenna structures with the FCC and to exercise primary responsibility for complying with the appropriate painting and lighting requirements. In general, any proposed or existing antenna structure that is more than 200 feet above ground level (60.96 meters) requires notice of construction or alteration to the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") and must be registered with the FCC.

Among other things, the FCC's NPRM requests comment on the proposed rule changes outlined below.

Continue reading "FCC Seeks Comment on Possible Revisions to Its Rules Regarding the Construction, Marking, and Lighting of Towers"


Comment Dates Set for FCC Proposals To Modify Tower Regulations

Posted May 21, 2010

By Paul A. Cicelski

There is a growing need for tower space as wireless technologies proliferate, and the potential profits to be made by tower owners leasing space for these new technologies has resulted in the growth of companies whose sole business is to own and manage towers. However, managing towers is not a simple affair, as they are subject to numerous regulations from the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Aviation Administration, not to mention the many other applicable regulations of the Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The FCC recently released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing revisions to Part 17, its Antenna Structure Registration rules, with the stated goals of improving compliance and safety and to remove dated and burdensome requirements on tower owners. It also claimed that the proposals will help tower owners, as the FCC puts it, "more efficiently and cost effectively" comply with the FCC's rules.

While it may be true that the FCC is proposing to streamline aspects of its rules, for antenna structure owners, the NPRM is a mixed bag at best and includes a number of possible new regulations that could increase regulatory compliance burdens. For example, the FCC is proposing new regulations changing the way it evaluates proper tower painting, adding station record retention requirements, changing the required location of signage, and establishing new tower light failure and tower inspection requirements. Of perhaps the greatest concern, the FCC is asking whether it should adopt a whole new set of rules to be consistent with those to be issued by the FAA which could expand notification requirements for construction of new facilities that operate on specified frequency bands, changes in authorized frequency, addition of new frequencies, and new power and height thresholds.

Among the potentially beneficial changes, the NPRM proposes to replace the current tower inspection and observation requirements with a simple rule mandating only prompt reporting of outages, ease the requirement regarding quarterly inspections of automatic control systems associated with tower lighting, clarify the rules regarding the posting of Antenna Structure Registration numbers, create an objective standard for determining when an antenna structure must be cleaned or repainted, and permit tower owners to notify tenants by email when a tower structure has been registered rather than being required to provide a paper notification.

The FCC set the public comment dates in this proceeding through publication in the Federal Register today. Comments are due July 20, 2010, and reply comments are due August 19, 2010. As will be discussed in greater detail in a Client Advisory regarding the proposed rule revisions, the FCC has requested comment on these and a multitude of other changes. A complete copy of the FCC's NPRM can be found here. Given the breadth of this proceeding, tower owners and tenants should seriously consider providing their input on the proposed rule changes or be prepared to live with the consequences. In worst case scenarios, tower owners can face fines of more than a million dollars for failing to comply with various federal (as well as state and local) regulations, and it is therefore wise for them to register their input on what those regulations will look like.