Pursuant to a recently issued Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”), a Florida low power FM broadcaster was penalized an additional $7,000 for refusing to power down its transmitter at the request of agents from the FCC’s Tampa Field Office. In June 2010, FCC field agents, following up on a complaint lodged by the Federal Aviation Administration regarding interference to its Air Traffic Control frequency at 133.75 MHz, employed direction-finding techniques to locate the source of the interference. The source turned out to be a low power FM station. When approached by the agents, a “representative of the station” repeatedly refused to power down the station even though the agents explained that the interference was an “ongoing safety hazard” and a “safety of life hazard.” During a subsequent telephone conversation between the station owner and an agent, the owner refused to let his representative at the station power down the transmitter until the station engineer was present. The station owner arrived at the transmitter site 30 minutes later and allowed the agents to inspect the station. At the time of the inspection, agents discovered that the station was using a transmitter that was not certified by the FCC, a direct violation of Section 73.1660 of the FCC’s Rules. The base forfeiture for operating with unauthorized equipment is $5,000.
Two months after the site inspection, the Tampa Field Office issued a Letter of Inquiry. In its response, the licensee admitted that the noncompliant transmitter had been in use for approximately four months, up to and including the date of the site inspection. The response also indicated that the transmitter was replaced by a certified transmitter on July 9, 2010.
The FCC decided that the “particularly egregious” nature of the violation, and the station owner’s “deliberate disregard” of an air traffic safety issue, warranted an upward adjustment of $7,000 to the base fine. The NAL therefore assessed a $12,000 fine against the station.