FCC will not help with zone defense


John Stokes and his Skyline Broadcasters are trying to upgrade KGEZ-AM in Kalispell MT. The station has had an easement since 1949 allowing its two-tower array to exist on a 160-acre plot owned by local farmers, of which it uses only 31 acres. Stokes came on the scene when he acquired the station in 2000. Stokes informed the farmers, the Anderson family, that he wished to enlarge or move the towers within the 160 acres; they argued he was limited to the original 31 acres. Further, they argued the site was in disrepair and took him to court, seeking to oust him from the property altogether. The Montana Eleventh Judicial District Court ruled that Stokes could stay on the 31 currently-occupied acres if and only if the repairs were made. Stokes appealed to the FCC, saying that local governments "have absolutely no jurisdiction to order an alteration, change, modify, remove, deny construction, deny placement, or restrict use of any approved FCC radio station facilities."

The FCC said it takes precedence over local government in matters of spectrum allocation. However, that authority does not extend to land usage matters. "For example, the Commission has adopted no rules preempting local zoning requirements affecting the construction of broadcast towers."
End result: Stokes is at the mercy of the court.