Originally posted on the Broadcast Law Blog.
In two separate Orders today, the FCC issued monetary forfeitures against a cable operator for failure to install Emergency Alert System (EAS) equipment and for various tower violations. These same violations could have been cited against a broadcaster, so these cases are instructive to both broadcasters and cable operators. The FCC issued monetary forfeitures of $20,000 and $18,000 against two Texas cable systems owned by the same company. In both cases, the cable operator failed to install EAS equipment, failed to notify the FAA of a tower lighting outage and failed to exhibit red obstruction tower lighting from sunset to sunrise. The higher fine related to a system's failure to display a tower's Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) number "in a conspicuous place so that it is readily visible near the base of the antenna structure."
These same requirements apply equally to broadcast stations that have their own towers. While most broadcasters are aware of the requirement to maintain working EAS equipment, many may not know that FCC rules require a tower's ASR to be conspicuously displayed at the base of the tower. To be compliant, the ASR must be displayed on a weather-resistant surface and of sufficient size to be easily seen at the base of the tower.
Similarly, if tower lighting is required, FCC rules require that any outage be reported "immediately" to the FAA if it cannot be fixed within 30 minutes. Red obstruction lighting is required to be operational from sunset to sunrise, while high and medium intensity obstruction lighting is required to be operational 24 hours a day.
These are important issues to which both broadcasters and cable operators need to stay alert to avoid big fines like those imposed here. As they potentially involve matters of public safety, the FCC is not likely to be forgiving in the event of violations.