By Randy Dunn
experience with commercial stations and the FCC is they will visit your station
and go down their little check list. A LOT used to depend on how the
examiner felt at that time, but things have changed and I think the field
inspectors are a different breed of individuals than the earlier (pre 1980) FCC.
I have heard they are trained better and typically qualified better.
During an inspection they will pleasantly
chat with you and sometimes tell you what you need to work on or tell you that
you are clean; either way, NOTHING is official until you receive a notice in the
mail of violation (IF you do). Usually, unless it was a second offense, a
blatant ignoring of the rules or such a poorly run station to start with
(multiple obvious violations), the notification will ask you to correct the
problem and report back within a time-period -- usually 30 days, in writing.
Sometimes you got multiple violations cited and maybe a $500 forfeiture for
one. Now this was the typical small station and often the station owner
could call the FCC and talk them down on the fine (sometimes around 50%), but in
my experience, fines are actually pretty rare unless the FCC is trying to make a
point about some specific item with several stations in a sweep (which could be
happening here -- this is the reason I would like to see the list). Often
you will never hear from them again.....now, be aware, that was the typical
method of commercial stations for the past 20 years.
My GUESS and this is ONLY a GUESS, is that
they are doing this to see how well the LPFM self-regulation is actually going
and how well LPFM works without interference to others and they may well be
checking our commercial friends to make sure they are being fair with us too.
If I can get some areas where inspections are occurring I will make some
contacts and see if commercial stations in those areas have been inspected at
the same time.
Nobody should panic. Simply do the
BEST YOU CAN WITH WHAT YOU CAN DO! The FCC does require ALL of their rules
to be met in that particular service, but they also appreciate
"effort" to stay legal.
Let me make a couple of suggestions about
dealing with the inspectors. They are Federal Agents and as such if you
LIE to them, you are breaking the law! Do NOT lie to an agent, but again
they are WELL TRAINED in their interrogation ability and my suggestion would be
what your lawyer would tell you. DO NOT volunteer information that is NOT
asked for. Even if they buddy up to you, that is nothing more than a good
agent's method of interrogation. You ONLY have to respond to what they ask
and answer specifically, do not ADD a lot of background to the story unless it
is required to explain something and above all do not LIE. If you have a
legitimate complaint about a competitor, make the complaint and make absolutely
sure you just tell the facts. Let the agent make his own opinions and
conclusions. Then shut-up about it. In other words, don't keep
harping on a competitor that you feel has done you wrong.
If you will be polite and responsive to
them, you are more likely to come out better. If you refuse access for a
period of time or act like you are hiding something, watch-out. Just make
it a professional visit and understand that they are trained agents who are
there to obtain information regarding your operation, so the less said, if it is
not brought up, do not bring it up. I am NOT saying to hide anything, just
don't tell your station's life story, he or she does not want to hear it anyway.
If you have a deficiency, you are not
required to deal with it unless asked and then give them the facts, no lying and
show how you are attempting to correct it. They WANT you to operate
properly so their task is easier and if you can show reasonable effort then that
will help. Put any documents of discussions with your transmitter
manufacturer in your station file and that way they can see that you have at
least attempted (within your power) to rectify any issues regarding
Certifications or anything else. They are not Gestapo out to shut you
down, and my guess is they will send out some correction notifications to almost
everybody (because every station usually has at least one issue they could do
better on) and just be sure to do what they say and respond in a timely manner,
these inspections will pass when the FCC is satisfied that we are taking steps
to make and keep our stations within their regulations. I honestly think
this is somewhat of an experiment on the FCC's part AND it may be to cover
themselves with the NAB and other groups that have complained about LPFM
"before the fact". If they can show they have pro-actively
monitored LPFMs then nobody can point the finger at the commission for creating
and allowing LPFM to become a viable, and alternative method of broadcasting.
Stay positive and don't panic, I have not heard of one citation as of now.
Hopefully, I can
set these terms straight. I tried to summarize based on my own
interpretation of the rules, as printed in 1996 and in 2002.
Please make corrections if I've misstated something. The terms
*do* get confusing, and I probably missed subtilties while perusing the
authorized" means the equipment can be legally imported and
marketed. "Authorized" means you have "registered"
your equipment with the FCC and thus it appears in a database.
There must be some legal way to use your equipment in the US, although
it may require a license to do so, and it may not be applicable to all possible
uses of the equipment. All of the following are types of authorization.
approved" - (obsolete) The FCC has physically examined and measured sample
units at its labs.
certified" and "type accepted" - The FCC or an authorized
agency pores over submitted measurement and design data and gives a stamp of
approval. The "stamp" nets a permanently affixed plate to the
equipment. "Accepted" originally referred to equipment used for
licensed services, such as part 73 services, and "certified" referred
to unlicensed uses, such as part 15 services. In 1998 terms were
consolidated into "certified" for both licensed and unlicensed uses.
verified" and "type notified" - Manufacturer takes
measurements or steps to ensure equipment is compliant. No data
submitted. No sample submitted.
"Notified" disappeared in 1998, coincidentally at the same time
that "verified" appeared.
of Conformity" - Similar to "verified." The last person to
make changes to the equipment ("responsible party") takes the
measurements. Usually used for small build, non-mass-produced
sum it up, when Mr. Bickel says "certified" or "accepted" is
OK, he restated the rule that implies that basically all operating
LPFMs are in violation (since no type certified or accepted equipment is
available). I agree with Leo that "verified" was the answer
everybody wanted to hear.
it be proper to file for a waiver of 73.1660 to authorize verified equipment
until certified equipment becomes available or existing equipment becomes
certified, with perhaps a six month grace period? This would be
similar to how EAS was handled. Although, I'd be hardpressed to have
an on-air station admit they were in violation by filing the waiver.
Probably only a good option if the station hasn't yet fired up.
aged CPs, would filing for an extention based on the fact that "no suitable
transmitter is available in the marketplace" be an acceptable excuse for
not building? A stream of those may help any petitions to apply the same
"verified" rule to LPFM as applied to FM. The part that boggles
me is that this issue really isn't that new, yet the FCC has remained silent.