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TAB ABIP Inspectors Detail Common Station Regulatory Deficiencies at 2019 TAB Show

Two inspectors with TAB’s Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program, Dick Pickens and Steve Sandlin, detailed common station FCC regulatory deficiencies they have found during station reviews in the past few years, during a session at TAB’s recent 2019 Convention and Tradeshow.

Pickens has been a TAB inspector since the program’s inception in January 1997. Sandlin came on board about five years ago. Both are broadcast engineering veterans with a combined 100+ years of experience in the industry.

They were joined in the session by attorney Scott Flick of TAB’s FCC legal counsel, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

For more than two decades TAB has offered Texas Radio and TV stations the opportunity to go through a mock FCC-style inspection with the potential prize being a three-year waiver from routine or surprise FCC inspection.

It’s called the Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program, or ABIP for short.

TAB inspectors issue the station an inspection report documenting the station’s FCC compliance review.

Compliant stations receive the three-year waiver in the form of a Certificate of Compliance.

While many stations pass the inspection with flying colors, stations that are found to have deficiencies may correct them within a reasonable timeframe and still garner one of the coveted certificates.

So, what are some of the more common deficiencies found at Texas broadcast stations?

Pickens has just updated a downloadable summary list on the TAB website’s ABIP page.

There were a couple of key takeaways from the session.

While compliance with the online station public inspection file is good for several stations, this is an area which could trip up broadcasters during the FCC’s upcoming Texas license periods in 2021 (Radio) and 2022 (TV). 

The FCC will likely view harshly those stations that have not timely filed documents such as programs/issues lists.

Stations should also be on guard for required documents that the FCC may have populated during the online public file conversion process a few years ago.

There have been instances of outdated contour maps and such being uploaded by the FCC.

Flick warned attendees, that ultimately, it is the station’s responsibility to make sure the correct documents are in the public inspection file.

Also, if a document is timely filed but later updated, make a note and get a screen shot of the revision.

The reason? The document will show the later date/time stamp for the corrected document, rather than the original (and timely filed) date/time stamp. It could save a broadcaster a fine at renewal time.

Flick is revising the Pillsbury law firm’s station public inspection file advisory and a new version should be posted soon.

For now, stations can refer to the advisory currently posted as a helpful tool.

Pickens was especially concerned about the training for “chief operators” at stations. He and Sandlin have both reviewed stations at which the designated chief operator was not fully aware of their required duties as specified by FCC regulations.

They recommend that stations invest in the latest SBE chief operator certification handbook as a starting point. It can be ordered from the Society of Broadcast Engineers’ website.

The ABIP’s goal is to promote and ensure station compliance with the FCC’s regulations, and it’s better for TAB to find problems, than for an unannounced FCC field agent to do so.

An errant station will get a compliance action item list in the TAB inspection report and time to correct the deficiencies, while a standard FCC visit could result in fines which start at $4,000 and go steadily higher.

TAB keeps the inspection fees low so stations can take advantage of this tremendous member service, but after all, the benefit of peace of mind is priceless.

Learn More About TAB’s ABIP

NOTE: The updated ABIP Common Deficiencies list was emailed to Beth on 8/9 for posting on the TAB ABIP website page.  The .pdf, ABIP Common Deficiencies 2019 pdf is also located in the main ABIP folder on the server.   

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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