Tower light failure unmasks the case of the purloined public file


The lightning strike on the tower of WOXD-FM Oxford MS, licensed to Taylor Communications, took out the red obstruction lights, an outage which was not promptly reported to the FAA. In addition, FCC investigation of the lighting problem revealed a missing public file, which the station said was stolen by a former station manager.

The initial punitive assessment by the FCC for the twin violations was $13K. But in this station’s case, it’s all a little bit complicated.

For starters, the station didn’t think it needed to get hold of the FAA since the lights of a nearby tower were in good working order and warned aircraft away from the location. Not good enough, said the FCC. However, the station did try to warn FAA, but the published phone number wasn’t working. The FCC took that into consideration and reduced a $3K fine to $2.5K.

The case of the missing public file is quite unusual – the licensee claimed that a former station manager used keys retained after his firing to sneak into the station, embezzle some cash and make off with the public file and other documents.

However, the case was never prosecuted and the station manager was never found guilty of anything, so the FCC was simply left with a station missing a public file, and hit it with the standard $10K fine, bringing the total to $12.5K.

The station’s record of past compliance was taken into account, and was found to be quite good. In fact, it was good enough to get $2.5K knocked off the tab, bringing the final assessment down to $10K total.

RBR-TVBR observation: If one visits a radio station and seeks the public file, and it’s missing, it might be annoying. But if one flies an airplane into an unlit radio tower, it could be extremely painful or fatal. So why, then, does it cost $10K for the file violation and only $3K for the tower violation? Shouldn’t that be the other way around? Just sayin’…