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:
- Pennsylvania AM Radio Station’s Tower Marking and Lighting Violations End With Consent Decree
- Unauthorized Transfer of Control Costs Nevada FM Radio Licensee $8,000
- Arizona Translator Station Violates Construction Permit Terms and Receives $15,000 Penalty
AM Station Enters Into Consent Decree to Settle Tower Marking and Lighting Case
The Enforcement Bureau entered into a Consent Decree with a Pennsylvania AM radio licensee and tower owner to resolve a years-long investigation into violations of the Commission’s tower lighting and marking rules.
Under Part 17 of the FCC’s Rules and in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements, tower owners must comply with various painting, lighting, and notification requirements. These rules are critical to maintaining air traffic safety, and the FCC imposes strict requirements regarding tower painting and lighting maintenance. Specifically, the FCC’s rules require that tower owners: (1) clean and repaint tower structures as frequently as is necessary to maintain good visibility; (2) ensure tower structures conform to the painting and lighting requirements prescribed in their FCC registration; and (3) notify the FAA of any lighting outages.
In response to an anonymous complaint, FCC investigators made several on-site visits in late 2015 and early 2016 to inspect a broadcaster’s antenna structures located in Pennsylvania, and observed faded paint markings and lighting outages on two of the four structures. In February 2016, the FCC issued a Notice of Violation for the station’s failure to: (1) clean and paint the antenna structures so that their colored markings were sufficiently visible; (2) keep the structures lit in accordance with the terms of their FCC registration; and (3) timely notify the FAA of the lighting outage.
When presented with the Notice of Violation, the station responded by acknowledging that it was aware of the lighting outage issues and was taking steps to make the needed painting and lighting repairs. It also claimed that it had tried to notify the FAA about the lighting outage only to find that the FCC investigators had already filed a notification.
Returning for a reinspection several months later, FCC investigators found that the station had still not remedied any of the violations. As a result, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) in December 2016 proposing a $25,000 fine, and instructed the station to either pay the amount in full or submit to the Enforcement Bureau justification for a reduction or cancellation of the fine.
The station followed up with numerous filings at the FCC, including a submission to the Commission’s Office of Managing Director seeking reconsideration of the NAL, but the filings failed to properly respond to the Enforcement Bureau, as directed in the NAL. In July 2019, the FCC issued a Forfeiture Order, noting these procedural failures and ordering payment of the full $25,000 fine. The station submitted a petition seeking reconsideration of the Forfeiture Order in August 2019.
To finally resolve the matter, the FCC entered into a Consent Decree with the station owner under which the station will pay a reduced $1,900 penalty, certify that each of its antenna structures complies with Part 17 of the FCC’s Rules, and adopt a comprehensive compliance plan to prevent future violations.
Nevada FM Licensee Hit with $8,000 Penalty for Improper Transfer of Control
In a recently adopted Consent Decree, the Media Bureau settled an investigation into an FM radio licensee for conducting a transfer of control without prior Commission approval.
Section 310(d) of the Communications Act prohibits the transfer of control of a station license without first obtaining FCC approval. Under Section 73.3540 of the FCC’s Rules, a licensee seeking such approval must file an application on FCC Form 315 at least 45 days before the anticipated effective date of the transfer of control.