Comedian Steven Wright has observed that “It’s a small world – but I wouldn’t want to paint it.” And it may be a small AM tower, but according to the FCC, you’d better paint it, and you’d better make sure it’s inaccessible to the general public. Failure on those counts has cost a New Jersey AM $20K.
The station is WMID-AM Atlantic City, and it’s licensed to Equity Communications LP.
The case not only supports the concept of making sure station structures are up to code, it underscores the necessity of responding to FCC critiques in a timely manner. Equity was slow to respond on this occasion.
Here’s the timeline:
* 3/5/10: FCC agents inspect the antenna structure, find the paint to be chipped and faded, and also find a gate in the fence surrounding the tower unlocked.
* 4/7/10: The FCC issues a Notice of Violation and order that the tower be cleaned and painted, and notes the unlocked gate.
* 5/6/10: Equity responds, saying it has been planning to repaint, and says it has never seen the gate unlocked but states that there are several tenants using the site, all of whom have their own keys. They say matter will be rectified by 8/15/10.
* 11/16/10: The FCC inspects again, finds it has not been painted, strobe lights have not been installed, and again, a gate is unlocked. They go back to the site the next day with execs associated with Equity and the station and find the gate is still unlocked.
* 12/8/10: Another inspection, again no sign any improvements have been made. The tower fails a test involving FAA specifications.
* 1/7/11: The WMID chief engineer informs the FCC that the tower has operational lighting. The FCC confirmed that WMID had been allowed by the FAA to use strobe lighting instead of paint.
The failure to have a clean and easily visible tower is good for a $10K fine; the unsecured fence around the tower is good for $7K. On top of that, as the FCC put it, “Despite repeated warnings regarding the Antenna Structure’s faded paint and the unlocked gates, the apparent violations continued, demonstrating a deliberate disregard for the Rules.” It tacked on an additional $3K for that, resulting in a total liability of $20K.