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Dealing With the “Kleptocrats”

Consultant proposes that broadcasters “stop feeding the Washington swamp of political kleptocracy with outrageous costs and exploitations that in no way serve the FCC’s required standards of compliance for serving Americans”

kleptocrat: (n) �A thief in a position of political power; a greedy or corrupt politician.� � Oxford English Dictionary

Over the past 22 years, I have conducted thousands of radio and TV �Alternative Compliance Certification Inspections.� I�ve observed hundreds of stations going silent and answered phone calls inquiring how to �address X item of compliance without calling my $600+ per hour legal council?� It�s been quite the learning curve.�

My response always has to be a tad cryptic in order to avoid being brutalized by the legal tigers for practicing law without a shingle.

Most calls are from stations I have inspected and where I left my business card with the suggestion to call me with any question for which answer I do not charge. I find such is an excellent learning experience because, frequently, their questions involve a bit of research, and thus the caller and I both have the opportunity to learn something new.

Lately, the most common question has been, �How can I self-certify my station to be compliant, should the dreaded official FCC inspector show up with his fine-producing checklist in hand � with fines starting typically at $10,000?�

Here�s how: For less than half what most state broadcaster associations charge for a single station inspection (i.e. $250):

  • Obtain a copy of the NAB �Legal Guide to Broadcast Law and Regulations.��
  • Obtain a copy of the �SBE Broadcast Engineering Handbook.��
  • Hop on the internet and download the �Self Inspection Checklist(s) appropriate for your station(s) There are six such checklists: AM, FM, TV and three shorter ones for translators.

You now have all you need to solve 96.5% of questions needed to be fully FCC compliant.�

Don�t panic � the remaining 3.5% can be handled by a simple phone call to one of the FCC experts who will be glad to help you. So your final item to download is the �FCC Expert List� of helpful individuals at the commission, who will answer any question for you without charging you the minimum $250 to pick up the phone that some legal beagles will.

Using the method I have just shared with you, my wife Karen and I have prevented well over $2.5 million in fines, fees, forfeitures and � most significantly � a like amount in legal costs.

Let�s stop feeding the Washington swamp of political kleptocracy with these outrageous costs and exploitations that in no way serve the FCC�s required standards of compliance for serving Americans� �Public Interest, Convenience and Necessity.�

Benner, 80, is a semi-retired broadcast engineer who has served American Broadcasting since 1959 when he hosted a classical music program on U.S. Armed Forces Radio from North Africa. He has also worked as a former talk show host, news-writer-producer-commentator and print columnist over the past 50 years. He is principal of K.J. Benner & Assoc., based in Tucson, Ariz.