FCC To Help California Stations Against Wildfires
TV Stations Authorized To Erect Emergency Antennas Without Commission Clearance
John Eggerton , 9/1/2009 1:02:00 PM EDT

The Federal Communications Commission's Media Bureau has outlined procedures it has put in place to help TV and radio stations continue to reach over-the-air viewers if their towers are "compromised" by the California wildfires.

In a public notice issued late Monday, the bureau provided staff contacts for affected broadcasters and explained what avenues were available for expedited applications, waivers of standard commission policy and other assistance.

Those include cutting red tape for applications for special temporary authority to operate the station at variance with its FCC-authorized operation, allowing radio and TV stations to erect emergency antennas without first clearing it with the commission; allowing AM radio stations to remain at full power throughout the night based on the "good faith" assurance that it is necessary to protect life and property; and, if necessary, waivers of the usual notification timelines for stations that have to discontinue operations.

The waiver to allow emergency antennas for any station knocked off the air by fires is good through Oct. 31. The waiver for AM nighttime operation is good through Sept. 11.

California stations needing individual contacts for any of the above can find them on the public notice at this link.

At press time the fires still threatened almost two dozen TV and radio towers atop Mt. Wilson outside Los Angeles.

"Any time you are looking at something large-scale like this and its effect on communications, the number one priority is to make sure that broadcasters can get emergency information out to the public, including direction and guidance on actions they should be taking to protect themselves," said Rob Kenny, spokesman for the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.