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FCC Denies Ely Appeal on Tower Fine

Two companies deny responsibility for tower; FCC agrees with previous owner

The FCC says Ely Radio, licensee of KWNA(AM), Winnemucca, Nev., remains on the hook for an $11,000 fine for various tower violations.

The commission turned down Ely’s appeal this week and told the broadcaster to not only pay the money, but also fix the lighting and other tower safety issues within 30 days.

Ely’s appeal had been pending since 2009.

The case began in 2008 when the San Francisco office of the Enforcement Bureau originally fined Ely $13,000 because its red obstruction lights were out and the licensee had not notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the outage. The commission also found that Ely had apparently repeatedly failed to notify the FCC about a change in ownership information for the tower.

Ely denied owning the tower and said it wasn’t responsible for the structure’s upkeep.

Then the FCC sent a Letter of Inquiry to KWNA’s former owner, Sheen Broadcasting Co., which confirmed it’s no longer a commission licensee. Sheen told the commission the company sold all of the equipment used to operate the station, including the tower, to Ely in 2006.

In its appeal, Ely urged the FCC to reverse its decision, arguing that it’s really a tenant, not an owner, because the broadcaster leases the station building and land from Sheen. The commission didn’t find that argument credible, saying in its decision that “at best, it appears that Ely and Sheen may have a continuing disagreement” about how each of them interprets their sale agreement.

The FCC determined this week that Ely is indeed the tower owner and that it’s the only licensee using the structure. Ely’s personnel actually “improperly extinguished” the tower lights that resulted in the fine, according to the commission.

Because of Ely’s past history of good compliance with commission rules, the agency knocked off $2,000 from the penalty, bringing the amount to $11,000.