Hilton Head AM Owner Fined $25,000

Broken tower fence, nonworking EAS gear, incomplete public inspection file
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The FCC fined Walter Czura $25,000 for AM tower fencing, public inspection file, and Emergency Alert System equipment violations. Czura is the licensee of WNFO(AM), in the Sun City area of Hilton Head, S.C.

In addition to replying to the notice about the fine, Czura has 30 days to submit a sworn statement certifying that WNFO’s tower base fence is repaired, its EAS gear is operational and its public inspection file is complete.

Responding to a complaint, agents from the FCC Enforcement Bureau’s Atlanta Office inspected the station in July 2011 and saw part of the tower fencing had collapsed and said there was no perimeter fence around the property. The station is being run under a Local Marketing Agreement. The agents met with the LMA representative rather than Czura, who was not able to come to the station, according to the agency.

The agents saw there was no EAS equipment or any EAS logs in the studio. The LMA operator told the agents there hadn’t been any EAS activity for five years. The agents also said the inspection file was incomplete.

Discussing all of this by phone with Czura, he was “unfamiliar with the inspection file” according to the FCC’s report this week. He also said the EAS equipment was in the transmitter building, but couldn’t provide any more details about the EAS logs or EAS operations.

Czura claimed to be unaware that a section of the fence surrounding the base of the AM antenna tower had collapsed, but said he would get the fence repaired, according to the agency.

The agents found an EAS encoder/decoder in the transmitter building plugged into a power source, but the ENDEC was not connected to any receivers or to the transmitter. In another inspection, a contract engineer used by the LMA operator demonstrated that the EAS ENDEC was operational and could send a test, but, because it was not connected to anything other than a power supply, the test was not broadcast over the air, noted the commission.

Responding to a letter of Inquiry in September 2011, Czura again told the commission that “some portion” of the station’s public inspection file may have been at the transmitter site during the July 2011 inspection, but provided no specifics or evidence to support this claim. He argued that the LMA operator was responsible for keeping the inspection file up to date, according to the FCC’s account.

He also claimed there was nothing wrong with the tower fence when he last saw it and that an act of vandalism had occurred after his visit to the tower site. He believes that’s when the EAS equipment was disconnected and EAS logs were taken.

The FCC didn’t find Czura’s story about the fence to be plausible. They also found the transmitter shed was locked with a padlock and found it difficult to believe vandals would have disconnected EAS equipment and stolen the logs but then locked the building before they left.

In totaling up the entire $25,000 fine, the FCC broke it down to: $7,000 for failure to maintain an effective locked fence, $8,000 for failure to install EAS equipment and $10,000 for failure to maintain and make available a complete public inspection file.

Czura has 30 days to appeal or pay the amount.

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