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EAS Problems Lead to Fine in California

Commission outlines engineer’s efforts to address the problem

A California station stands to lose $6,000 because it allegedly didn’t have its EAS act in order.

The Federal Communication Commission’s San Diego enforcement office issued a notice of apparent liability against North County Broadcasting for its AM station KFSD in Escondido. Because the case touches on engineering practices, we’ll quote the FCC decision in detail:

“Last March FCC agents did an inspection at KFSD’s main studio in Carlsbad,” the commission wrote. “The agents observed that station KFSD’s EAS equipment was shared with the licensee’s co-located station KCEO(AM). The agents also observed that station KFSD’s EAS equipment was not operating properly at the time of inspection.”

Apparently the EAS equipment was capable of transmitting a required weekly test for KCEO, but not of transmitting a RWT for KFSD, the agents found.

“A review of the EAS logs for stations KCEO and KFSD indicated that in December 2009, and again in February 2010, station KFSD’s chief engineer was contacted by the operator on duty at station KFSD concerning problems with station KFSD’s EAS equipment and its failure to re-transmit the required monthly tests. During the inspection, an NCBC staff person acknowledged that station KFSD’s EAS equipment connection had been experiencing problems sending RWTs and RMTs since early December 2009.

“On March 31, 2010, the San Diego Office sent a letter of inquiry to NCBC concerning the operational status of station KFSD’s EAS equipment,” the commission continued.

“In its response, NCBC acknowledged that station KFSD’s EAS equipment, specifically the audio link, was not functioning properly from December 2009 until April 8, 2010.”

The station owner said that when the operator on duty contacted the chief engineer in December about the failure of the audio link, the chief “initially believed that the station’s EAS equipment problems were intermittent.”

“When notified again in February by station KFSD staff of EAS failures, the chief engineer performed a complete inspection of the equipment and exchanged controlling links between pieces of the equipment. The next week, in early March, the chief engineer inspected the wiring between the pieces of equipment and the audio paths, as well as tested recently purchased pieces of equipment in an attempt to resolve the continuing EAS failures. NCBC also stated that after the San Diego Office’s inspection on March 18, 2010, the engineer submitted the equipment for repair and it was determined that a power supply filter capacitor had ‘finally dried up’ and had gone from causing intermittent failure to total failure of the audio link. NCBC also stated that the equipment was repaired as of April 8, 2010.”

The commission proposed a $6,000 fine because EAS equipment was not operational as required; the failed audio link kept the station from transmitting an RWT and retransmitting an RMT. It also said the EAS equipment failed to function properly since December 2009 and that effective repairs were not made until the following April. This constituted a willful and repeated violation, the commission decided, though it lowered the usual forfeiture of $8,000 because the station had made good-faith efforts, “albeit unsuccessfully,” to troubleshoot the EAS failures prior to the inspection.

In its ruling, the FCC reiterated that EAS is “critical to public safety” and that it “takes seriously any violations of the rules implementing the EAS and expects full compliance from its licensees.” The station can reply with an appeal within 30 days.