The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

KWVE Meets the EB Bureaucrats

KWVE was recently slapped with a NAL for $5000, after a botched EAS test last year (October 2008). This is an LP-1 station which appears to have a good reputation in its area.

The FCC NAL is here:

I thought you might like to know a bit more of the background to the story:

The KWVE Chief Engineer, Marcos O’Rourke, is the Chair for the Operational Area’s EAS Committee.

O’Rourke relates their board op got “confused by a label on [the] automation computer (a pre-produced open that says ‘This is only a test’). He sent the header and attention tone of the RMT, somehow got confused, and failed to send the EOM. Since we’re a religious station we had a spot for our church and then a promo for our spanish HD-2 channel. A viewer on one of our local cable systems was offended by the religious material and complained to the FCC.

“Since that event (as I saw it at my home on our cable) we’ve retrained all our operators, refreshed our written policies and procedures regarding EAS, and instituted a policy of no EAS tests on the weekends (where we have lots of part timers) without myself or our Ops Manager being present and supervising the test.

“We have been the LP-1 for our area since the beginning of EAS and have not had any problems with handling tests and actual activations. We have a very active LECC and when something out of the ordinary happens we all know about it very quickly and remedy the problem very quickly.”

According to O’Rourke, the station is protesting the fine, and while not soliciting letters of support, they are grateful for the support that has already been shown.

While many at the FCC are sympathetic to the efforts put forth by stations that volunteer time and resources to EAS, I am told that this is a situation driven by a complaint from the public – and is still in “process.” The station is allowed to defend itself, and there is a further appeal process available.

Still, one has to wonder why the Enforcement Bureau issued the NAL as they did, based on the fact that the operator realized he made an error – but did not send an EOM – apparently meets the legal definition of “willful.”

Even if this does meet the “legal definition” of “willful,” many feel there is something wrong with such a strict application of the term – sort of like arresting a person with a broken tail light for dangerous operation because they were driving to a store to replace it.

As we wait to see how this works through the system – and we do need to wait and see what happens before reacting – here is a question: What else could KWVE have done – other than hire only perfect people? Mistakes do happen.

Stations acting as LP-1’s and LP-2’s do volunteer their services to the local communities and region. In return, many stations now see this as just another potential liability. If fines are a potential liability for a botched test, who wants the grief? Unless the FCC wants LP-1’s and LP-2’s to resign en mass, a real change in the way this sort of situation is handled is needed. Although there is a “procedure” underway, a calming message has to be sent – and soon – to the broadcast industry that this is not the result the Commission wants to see happen.

For what it is worth, a good start would be to delete entirely the useless RWT from the Rules. Actually fixing the RMT – as opposed to more studies and committees – would not be a bad idea either. Anyone for having all RMT’s come from government agencies? And, how about RDS?