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FCC Says Ely Still Owes $11,000

Commission backs Enforcement Bureau decision that the broadcaster is responsible for tower light outage

Ely Radio, a broadcast licensee and former owner of an AM tower in Nevada, got bad news from the commission.

The broadcaster had asked the agency to review $11,000 worth of fines. The FCC said originally that Ely didn’t have the required obstruction lighting on top of a tower and had not updated the FCC’s database to reflect that when Ely sold KWNA(AM), Winnemucca, Nev. to Buckaroo Broadcasting in 2012, the sale included the tower as well. The FCC said Ely should have updated its tower registration database to reflect the ownership change.

The tower lighting fines stem from 2008 when the Enforcement Bureau’s San Francisco office found Ely didn’t have red obstruction lighting on the tower from sunset to sunrise, didn’t observe the tower lights regularly and didn’t notify the FAA that the tower lights were out.

Ely originally denied it owned the tower, but the FCC said Ely did. The agency contacted Sheen Broadcasting Co., which confirmed it sold the tower to Ely in 2006 in what was a complicated transaction. In this case, Sheen sold all the studio equipment and the tower to Ely, but it held onto the building and the land on which the tower sits and leases those to Ely.

The Enforcement Bureau determined that Ely was responsible for the tower, but cut the original $13,000 fine to $11,000 for Ely’s past history of compliance with FCC rules. Ely argued it wasn’t responsible for the tower because of a quirk in Nevada real estate law and asked for a full commission review of the bureau decision.

The commission found no merit to Ely’s argument. It backed the bureau decision and says Ely must pay the fine within 30 days.

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