FCC, NIMA share tower data


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Tracking the proliferation of communications towers is becoming more and more difficult for federal agencies. As a result, the FCC and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) have decided to join forces. NIMA is a national intelligence and combat support agency that provides information related to physical features and geographically referenced activities in support of national security. The new combination will mean added scrutiny of the FCC's tower database, which could lead to significant fines where inaccurate data is uncovered.

In October, the FCC and NIMA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding providing for the exchange of unclassified database information on tower locations on a quarterly basis. The two agencies will also work with other federal agencies to ensure that the comprehensive information they compile is available for national security and aircraft navigation safety.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the FCC will provide information contained in its Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) database. The ASR contains information about antenna structures throughout the United States. FCC rules require that the owner of any proposed or existing antenna structure must register the structure with the FCC if it is used by an FCC licensee and if it requires notice of proposed construction to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FCC intends to use information from NIMA to improve the accuracy of its ASR database and to monitor ASR compliance. The information will be made publicly available through agency databases, and may be particularly valuable to licensees interested in collocating facilities.

Additions to the NIMA database will now be compared to ASR every three months. If the FCC finds that a site referred to it by NIMA is not in compliance with FCC rules, the FCC will issue a Notice of Potential Violation letter asking the site owner to bring its tower structure into compliance with FCC rules within a specified time period. If the site owner does not comply, the FCC will issue a Notice of Violation, which may lead to a fine and other penalties.

The FCC is not hesitant when it comes to levying fines for tower-related violations, including failures to register towers. The likelihood that the Commission might identify any particular unregistered tower has, however, been somewhat limited, largely because of the limited resources available to the Commission. The Memorandum of Understanding gives the FCC a new and accurate source of information concerning potential violations.

FCC localism road trips begin

As part of its effort to blunt Congressional and public criticism of the broadcast multiple ownership rules adopted in June, the FCC has begun a series of regional hearings to ascertain information and opinions about localism and its value in the broadcast regulatory scheme.

The first hearing, attended by Commissioners Copps and Adelstein and FCC Chairman Powell, was held in Charlotte, NC, in October. Large media companies such as Infinity Broadcasting and NBC plus smaller commercial and noncommercial broadcasters made presentations. Two North Carolina congressmen also made presentations, as did members of the public.

It was emphasized in the hearing that members of the public could file petitions to deny the license renewal applications of North and South Carolina radio stations that they see as being deficient in meeting local needs. The deadline for such petitions against ratio renewals in those states was Nov. 1, shortly after the hearing.

The next hearing will be in San Antonio in January. The San Antonio hearing may prove interesting because San Antonio is the corporate headquarters of Clear Channel Communications, a company whose success in consolidating radio stations across the country has caused much of the localism clamor.


Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC., Arlington, VA. E-mail martin@fhhlaw.com.

Dateline:

April 1 is the deadline for filing license renewal applications for radio stations in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Biennial ownership reports must be filed with these renewals even though stations in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee filed such reports in 2003.

Also on April 1, biennial ownership reports must be filed, and annual EEO reports must be placed in the public files of stations in the following additional states: Texas, Delaware and Pennsylvania.



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