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WGTM Faces $25,000 Fine

Licensee says it was moving its main studio when FCC inspectors found deficient fencing and no EAS gear or public file

The FCC fined Spirit Broadcasting $25,000 for having a non-working Emergency Alert System, deficient tower fencing and a partial public inspection file at WGTM(AM), Wilson, N.C.

During an inspection in March 2010, field agents from the Norfolk, Va., commission office found an unlocked fence that was “in disrepair” around the four-tower array and no perimeter fence. The unattended transmitter site is in Rock Ridge, N.C.

At the main studio in Wilson, agents found the station had no functional EAS system and no documentation showing EAS gear had ever been installed or that any weekly or monthly EAS tests had been sent or received. During the inspection, the general manager couldn’t produce the public inspection file, according to the FCC.

Spirit later told the commission it had been in the middle of a main studio move when the inspection occurred and that the EAS equipment and public inspection file were in transit. It also said the GM didn’t know that one of the station engineers had taken the EAS equipment for repair. Both the EAS equipment and the file were in the new main studio in June 2010, according to Spirit, which also said it had repaired its tower fencing twice but that the fencing repeatedly had been vandalized.

In its decision, the commission said it considers every station to be part of the nationwide EAS network unless a broadcaster asks for authority to opt out and the request is approved. Spirit staff also did not mention the main studio move during the inspection, according to the commission.

The agency fined Spirit $8,000, $10,000 and $7,000 for the EAS, public file and tower fencing violations respectively, for a total of $25,000.

The broadcaster has 30 days to pay or ask that the penalties be reduced or eliminated; it must also submit a sworn statement within that time stating the violations have been corrected.