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FCC Trims STL Fine

Commission has since eliminated ‘last-mile’ STL prohibition

The FCC this week reduced a fine for Gila Electronics that was based on a studio-to-transmitter link violation from 2009.

During an inspection of KUKY(FM), Wellton, Ariz. in September 2009, agents discovered what appeared to be a 950 MHz STL that was relaying KUKY programming’s main studio in Yuma, Ariz. to its transmitter site near Wellton.

Gila provided technical support to KUKY(FM), including the transmitter installation; it provided agents with a copy of the license for station WNTB570 which authorized operation on 956.65 MHz as a Private Operational Fixed Point-to-Point Microwave radio station.

The licensed location for WNTB570 was listed as Telegraph Pass, Ariz. near Wellton. However, the microwave station was installed at the KUKY studio in Yuma, about 15 miles from the licensed location for station WNTB570.

The San Diego field agents confirmed that a signal on 956.65 MHz was emanating from KUKY’s main studio and noted that a directional microwave antenna was mounted on the roof of the studio building, aimed towards Telegraph Pass, and emitting a microwave signal with KUKY’s programming.

In January 2010, the San Diego Office issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture for $4,000 to Gila for failing to operate radio station WNTB570 at its authorized location and for providing a private carrier service not in accordance with the rules applicable to its particular radio service.

The FCC said in its decision this week that when KUKY was inspected, Gila operated station WNTB570 from a location inconsistent with the station’s authorized coordinates. The distance separating the point of actual operation from the licensed authorized location was approximately 15 miles.

Gila also appeared to be providing a private carrier service to KUKY licensee Hispanic Target Media, according to the commission. When the penalty was levied, the FCC permitted licensees to transmit program material from one location to another only if the frequencies did not serve as the final RF link in the distribution chain of program material to a station. The commission has since eliminated this so-called “last-mile” prohibition, giving broadcasters more flexibility in planning STL frequency strategies.

In its response, Gila didn’t not dispute the facts, however it asked for a reduction because it said there were no interference reports from other licensees nor any substantial potential for interference to other users given the sparsely populated desert terrain. The commission was not swayed by this argument, noting that the absence of public harm is not considered a mitigating factor in a rule violation.

However, the agency did give Gila a break based on the company’s past good behavior, noting that the company has not received a prior violation during its more than 20-year history. That’s why it cut the fine to $3,200.

Payment is due within 30 days.