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Tower Lighting Outages Makes for Big Fines

Three station owners manage to get penalties somewhat reduced

The FCC levied a total of $22,000 in tower lighting fines this week. However, the total is lower than the original fines involving three station owners: Kemp Broadcasting, Duhamel Broadcasting Enterprises and Ohana Media Group.

Originally, the commission proposed a $14,000 fine against Kemp because the daytime obstruction lighting was out on Kemp’s tower in Moapa, Nev., and for not notifying the FAA about the outage. The Enforcement Bureau said Kemp had no lighting outage alarm system, either and failed to monitor the tower lights daily. The original proposed fine was increased $4,000, because there were two incidents involving that tower, in April and September of 2013.

Kemp didn’t deny the outages but asked for the penalty to be reduced, citing quick repair time; Kemp provided evidence it had already contracted for repairs when the second outage occurred, so the agency cut the fine in half, to $8,000.

Duhamel was cited $10,000 for violations for a tower in Rapid City, N.D., similar to Kemp’s; however Duhamel told the commission it thought it had received permission from the FAA and the state to extinguish the lights on the center tower while maintaining the lights on the two end towers of the array.

Duhamel calls this “a good faith misunderstanding” and asked for the penalty to be reduced.

In its decision, the Enforcement Bureau said the bottom line is that the broadcaster failed to exhibit the required red obstruction lighting and didn’t tell the FAA the lights were out at night; the agency did reduce the fine $2,000 based on Duhamel’s past good compliance record.

Finally, Ohana, owner of a tower in Anchorage, Alaska, was able to get its $10,000 fine reduced to $6,000. This broadcaster, too, was cited for failing to exhibit required flashing white lighting during the day and of not notifying the FAA of the outage. Ohana told the agency that its tower lighting monitoring system malfunctioned and provided evidence that the company inspected and tested its system days before the inspector cited them. The agency noted the good faith that Ohana demonstrated in trying to comply with the rules and that’s why the bureau reduced the fine.

All three broadcasters must pay their penalties within 30 days.