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Broken-Down AM Tower Fencing Could Prove Costly

At WLBH, main studio staffing was lacking as well, FCC says

Keep those tower fences in good repair. And while you’re at it, make sure you have a meaningful staff presence at your studio.

That seems to be the moral of the story here. The FCC fined Mattoon Broadcasting Co., licensee of WLBH(AM) and WLBH(FM) in Mattoon, Ill., $14,000 for not securing the station towers within a locked fence and not keeping a management and staff presence at the main studio.

In July of last year, an FCC field agent from the Chicago office tried to inspect the stations but found the door was locked and no one answered either the door bell or the phone. There was no voicemail for the stations either, according to the commission account.

The Chicago field agent tried to inspect the four-tower array for the AM and saw the fences surrounding each tower “had either sections that were falling down or sections that were completely missing. In each case, the state of disrepair allowed unfettered access to the tower and there was no perimeter fence surrounding the property on which the towers were located,” the FCC stated in its account.

That July, Mattoon President/GM James Livesay called the FCC field agent, acknowledged that the fencing had deteriorated and said he would replace the tower fences right away, according to the commission. As far as staffing at the main studio, Livesay said the individual who’s usually there had a lot of absences due to medical tests; the GM did not indicate to the agent he had additional employees.

FCC rules require towers that have RF potential at the base to be enclosed within a locked fence or other enclosure. Licensees must also provide a “meaningful management and staff presence” at the main studio, like reporting to work there each day and using the main studio as their home base. The commission says a single person working at a main studio does not constitute a “meaningful management and staff presence.”

In this case, the agency fined Mattoon $7,000 for violating the AM fencing rule and another $7,000 for violating the main studio rule for a total of $14,000 in penalties. Mattoon has 30 days to pay or appeal.