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FCC Upholds $42,000 in Fines for Steckline

Wrong antenna pattern, power levels trip up two Kansas AMs

Steckline Communications is still facing a total of $42,000 in fines for operating Wichita, Kan., AM stations KQAM and KGSO with the wrong antenna pattern and power levels and for an incomplete public file, according to the commission.

The commission originally proposed the penalties last October after a 2012 inspection turned up the violations. Specifically, the FCC says Steckline failed to maintain its required directional antenna patterns and operate within prescribed power limits.

KSGO was operating above its authorized daytime power limit and didn’t power down at night while KQAM, too was operating with daytime power levels at night and its DA pattern wasn’t within authorized levels, according to the inspecting agents.

Steckline had asked for a reduced fine, blaming its contract engineer for “improperly” programming the KSGO transmission equipment. The licensee also told the FCC that someone who had a key and was familiar with the KSGO transmitter site tampered with the remote control, preventing automatic switching from a day to night pattern.

The commission didn’t buy that argument, noting in its decision this week that Steckline had no record of when its DA parameters were last within tolerance. The absence of remote control monitoring and logging by station personnel allowed the transmitter situation “to go unobserved for a prolonged period,” said the FCC. The commission also rejected Steckline’s claim of past good compliance with FCC rules, noting fencing, main studio and public file violations at two sister stations.

As for KQAM, Steckline argued the station only had one reading out of tolerance and corrected that quickly after the inspection. The licensee also told the commission the company hired an engineering consultant as part of a compliance program, however the agency noted that was to gather preconstruction data before tower construction. “If the station had a strong compliance monitoring program in place, it might have discovered the alleged tampering and noncompliant operation” before the inspection, noted the agency.

The licensee has 30 days to pay.