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Think the FCC Isn’t Conducting Field Investigations Anymore?  Recent Texas Cases Show It Isn’t So!

When the FCC served notice a few years ago that it was shuttering the Houston field office and consolidating operations in Dallas, some Texas broadcasters adopted the wishful thinking that the commission was no longer interested in doing surprise station inspections or other field work.

That belief was bolstered by the last phase of the migration of station public inspection files to their new online home at the FCC which will be complete in just under two months, as well as by the elimination of the FCC’s main studio rule, which became effective on Monday.  But four recent Texas cases should dispel the notion that the FCC won’t be knocking on stations’ doors anymore, asking to come inside for a look see. In fact, online public files may make it easier for FCC staff to discover potential violations.

EAS Violations
The FCC has issued a Notice of Violation to Viva Media LLC, licensee of KQFX-FM and KBEX-FM Amarillo, as a result of a field investigation by the FCC’s Dallas Field Office of complaints made against the stations.  The FCC said the NOV “does not preclude the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau from further action if warranted, including issuing a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture”.

According to FCC documents, agents of the FCC’s Dallas field office inspected the stations on Oct. 26 in response to complaints that neither station had a functioning Emergency Alert System (EAS) unit.  At the time of inspection, the FCC agents observed that there was no EAS log nor was there a station log as required by the FCC’s regulations contained in 47 CFR § 73.1800(a) and 47 CFR § 73.1820(a)(1)(iii).

The EAS log provision requires all stations to record “an entry of each test and activation of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) pursuant to the requirement of part 11 of this chapter and the EAS Operating Handbook. Stations may keep EAS data in a special EAS log which shall be maintained at a convenient location; however, this log is considered a part of the station log.”

The station log provision requires stations to “maintain a station log as required by §73.1820. This log shall be kept by station employees competent to do so, having actual knowledge of the facts required. All entries, whether required or not by the provisions of this part, must accurately reflect the station operation.  “Any employee making a log entry shall sign the log, thereby attesting to the fact that the entry, or any correction or addition made thereto, is an accurate representation of what transpired.” 

In its NOV, the FCC said it wants “additional information concerning the violations and any remedial actions taken.”  The stations have a 20-day period to respond to the Dec. 20 NOV.  The San Antonio Public Safety Alliance, licensee of Station KXTJ-LP San Antonio was also issued an NOV for the same two issues.

The Jan. 4 NOV does not indicate what prompted the Sept. 21 inspection of KXTJ-LP but notes that upon review the agent from the FCC’s Dallas field office could not find an EAS log nor a station log as required.  The NOV goes on to say the licensee did not provide a log upon request.  The station has a 20-day period to respond to the Jan. 4 NOV.  The FCC left open the option of a forfeiture.

Daytimer Violation
On Jan. 5, the FCC issued an NOV to JLF Communications, LLC, licensee of KULF-AM Bellville, an AM daytime station, for operating beyond sunset.  The NOV said agents from the FCC’s Dallas field office inspected the station on Dec. 11, and again on Dec. 12, at 6 pm CST and observed the station was broadcasting after sunset.  “Based on the Commission’s records, on December 14, 2017, JLF Communications, LLC is licensed to operate daytime only, which would have ended at approximately 5:30 CST” the notice said.

It cited 47 CFR § 73.1745 (a):  “No broadcast station shall operate at times, or with modes or power, other than specified and made a part of the license, unless otherwise provided in this part.”  The station has a 20-day period to respond to the Jan. 5 NOV.  The FCC left open the option of a forfeiture in this case as well.  TAB reminds stations to be vigilant about FCC rules compliance.  Former employees with an insider’s knowledge of station operations can be a source of FCC complaints.

Online public files, ABIP
Potential FCC public inspection file infractions are much easier to find now because of the file’s online availability.  The FCC doesn’t even have to leave the office to review the station public file nor does a belligerent group seeking to challenge a station’s license.  Fortunately, TAB offers a unique service – discounted for members – to ascertain a station’s FCC rules compliance. It’s called the Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program. 

A TAB-contracted inspector reviews a station in mock FCC inspection using the FCC’s self-inspection checklist as the guide.  The station is issued an inspection report indicating either a clean bill of health or a list of deficiencies found. Stations that successfully complete review are eligible for a three-year waiver from a surprise FCC inspection.  The commission may still review a station to investigate a complaint, a “loss of life” issue or as a part of a specific FCC field directive issued from Washington, D.C., the last of which happened more than a decade ago.


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

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