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FCC Relents on Tower Fence Fine

Rescinds $7,000 penalty against Spirit of Alaska Broadcasting

Spirit of Alaska Broadcasting says it did the best it could in subzero temperatures to build a fence around the tower for KMBQ(AM), Wasilla, Alaska when it put the station on the air in winter. The FCC agreed, rescinding a $7,000 fine.

The commission originally fined Spirit in 2009 after an inspection conducted after the agency received a complaint about the fence.

In response, Spirit told the agency when the station went on the air in December 2008, three feet of snow were on the ground, the daytime high temperatures ranged from -2 to -8 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, and the overnight lows were -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The broadcaster says it also took measures to protect the public from RF at the base of the tower, like erecting fences of plastic sheeting and flexible orange plastic snow fencing, and placing orange and red markers around the fencing. It also installed non-ionizing radiation signs on the plastic fencing and on the transmitter building and the radiator block, and that it anchored the signage and sheeting with additional concrete blocks.

Spirit also notes that multiple efforts were made by its neighbors at the transmitter site to stop the construction and operation of the transmitter, and that these efforts delayed Spirit from erecting a permanent fence, though once the weather cooperated, Spirit eventually built a fence in April 2009. The broadcaster says it maintained a physical presence on the site pending construction of the fence.

In July 2010, a federal court in Alaska placed Spirit’s assets in receivership, assigned a receiver and ordered the receiver to apply to the FCC for an involuntary assignment of licenses and transfer control of Spirit’s stations; the commission approved the application August 2010.

After reviewing its record, the commission noted that Spirit made a good faith effort to comply with the fencing rules, and the “unusual circumstances preventing construction” and the appointment of a receiver all factored into the decision to rescind the fine.

— Leslie Stimson