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Big Fish in Barrel Over Tower Lights

FCC cuts fine to less than half

A fine against Big Fish Broadcasting for antenna lighting violations has progressed to a forfeiture order.

Big Fish owns a tower in Greenwood, S.C., and used to own one in Chappells, S.C., before selling it to Radio Training Network Inc. in April 2010. The commission says the red obstruction lights were out for both towers and that the company didn’t notify the FAA of the outages. In a decision this week, the agency said both towers required painting and a lit, flashing red beacon up top, along with steady burning red side obstruction lights.

Responding to a complaint about tower outages, the FCC’s Atlanta office had contacted the FAA, which said no outage report had been filed for the towers and no Notice to Airmen had been issued for the unlit structures.

In July 2009, the FCC told Big Fish’s owner the towers were his responsibility; he said he would check into it and notified the FAA about the outages that month, according to the commission’s summary of the case. That October and again in November, the FCC confirmed the towers were still unlit after sunset and there was no power to the site. The agency said the local power company confirmed electricity to both towers was shut off in 2009.

In July 2010, the commission issued a $20,000 fine to Big Fish; the broadcaster argued that it did not receive the notice until 30 days after its release and, by then, had already taken steps to fix the violations. Big Fish also said the company couldn’t pay the full amount and asked for a reduction based on past good compliance with FCC rules.

The FCC expects violations to be corrected so it did not knock off any penalty because of that; however it did cut the fine to $7,000 based on documentation proving the company couldn’t pay the full amount. Big Fish has 30 days to pay.