By Jordan Walton
Through many conversations with our members over the last few years, there is no doubt that the Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program (ABIP) is one of the most useful and appreciated member benefits the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association offers.
Until I shadowed MBA inspector Bob Shotwell on his inspection of Dover, New Hampshire’s WTSN-AM and WBYY-FM, I didn’t fully appreciate what the program accomplishes for members.
First, some background. If your station has never participated in the program before, it’s pretty simple. Bob Shotwell, the MBA ABIP inspector heads to your station and inspects the station using the FCC self inspection list for AM/FM radio or television. He’ll point out things in your public file or around your tower that the FCC could fine you for. The station fixes them and you’re sent a certificate of compliance that keeps the FCC from performing a surprise inspection of your station for 3 years! There are certain exceptions of course but that’s solid peace of mind. FCC fines range from a few thousand dollars to $10,000 or more.
Now, back to our trip to Dover. Bob spent the first hour or two meticulously going through the station’s public files. For the most part the files were kept perfectly. Bob found two minor problems and informed station Operations Manager Sarah Newsam. Each problem was easily fixable. The possible FCC fine for each was $10,000. The inspection had already paid for itself!
Later, Bob and Sarah discussed how the station’s log their EAS tests. It turns out Sarah was doing a lot of extra work that the FCC didn’t need to see. Her time spent transcribing EAS tests was cut significantly, saving her hours each week. Sarah was pretty happy about it.
Next, a series of tests to make sure that the stations were operating at the proper parameters. As a former radio sales guy, this is where Bob kind of lost me. I took his word for it when he said that each station came in within acceptable levels.
Lastly, it was outside to check out the two transmitter sites. Since WTSN-AM is a directional AM station Bob needed to take reading from set points throughout the area. Here he is taking a reading.
During the course of inspecting both transmitter sites, Bob found one, very minor concern with some fencing (not pictured here). After Bob sends the station his initial report, stations fix the problems and send him back proof – generally in the form of photographs and scanned documents.
A re-inspection is very rare. Days later, I received Certificates of Compliance for both stations. One is kept by the Association, another sent to the FCC and the third goes to the station. If an FCC staff member ever came into the station and asked to look around, a staff member would only need to show them the certificate.
The MBA is proud to support this program by paying $250 of each $500 inspection for our members. If your station is due for an inspection, visit massbroadcasters.org for more information. If your station has never been inspected, we urge you to do so! It could save your stations THOUSANDS. For more pictures during my day on the road with Bob Shotwell, visit our Facebook page!