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If An Agent Came Knocking Would You Be Ready?

Earlier in the week we reported that WFBX in North Carolina was hit with an $8K fine. The station EAS equipment was not operational and that's a big price to pay for any station these days. You never know when an FCC inspector will walk through your front door to conduct an inspection of your EAS equipment. The deer-in-the-headlights look will probably not be the right response. Do you think everyone in your building can perform a test and log that test? Do you, as the manager of the station or a cluster of stations feel confident every station can pass an inspection? Do you know what to do if the equipment fails? Just in case you are not clear on what to, we asked attorney John Garziglia to lay it out for everyone.

RI:  What should stations should be prepared for when getting an EAS inspection?

Garziglia "A radio station, when preparing for an EAS inspection, and at all other times, should be sure that the EAS equipment is plugged in, receiving the designated stations, logging tests as received and transmitted, and otherwise installed and working in conformance with the FCCs rules.

There are not too many nuances to being sure that the stations EAS encoder, decoder and signal generating equipment are available and working during the times that a station is in operation.  Possibly the most difficult thing is to impress the importance of this upon the staff of a radio station which sees the requirement to broadcast EAS test tones as an annoyance, at best.

The FCC does not currently require many entries in radio station logs, but EAS is an exception.  EAS tests must be logged, as well as equipment outages and failures to transmit tests with notations of the reason for the outages or failures, and the date and time the equipment was removed and restored to service.  In the event the EAS equipment becomes defective, a station may operate without the equipment pending its repair or replacement for a period not to exceed 60 days. If repair or replacement of defective equipment is not completed within 60 days, a station must submit to its assigned FCC field office an informal request for additional time.

While the FCCs rules allow co-owned co-located stations to share EAS equipment, non-co-owned but co-located stations cannot share EAS equipment.  This restriction becomes particularly relevant in LMA situations where non-co-owned stations may share the same main studio facilities.

There are many technical rules as to what a stations EAS equipment must be, how it must be installed and how it must be further modified to meet the upcoming now extended September 30, 2011 date for CAP-compliance.  As with most other technical aspects of station operations, a broadcaster generally has to rely upon a good engineer.  Most of the FCC EAS violations resulting in fines, however, could have been quickly identified and corrected prior to an FCC visit by simply asking whether the EAS unit was working, and whether the EAS unit was logging tests as received and transmitted.

John F. Garziglia is a Communications Law Attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Washington, DC and can be reached at (202) 857-4455 or jgarziglia@wcsr.com. Have a question for our "Ask The Attorney" feature? Send to edryan@radioink.com.




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