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.