ALTERNATIVE BROADCAST INSPECTION PROGRAM (ABIP)

The Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program (ABIP), offered by the South Dakota Broadcasters Association, will help you find and eliminate most of the violations at your radio and/or television station – issues that would normally draw a fine.   The ABIP insulates you from random and surprise inspections from the FCC for 3 years.

HISTORY

The ABIP was started in 1994 for several reasons.  The primary reason for the program was to help stations stay in compliance with FCC Rules without the threat of a surprise inspection and/or heavy fine.

Jim Wychor, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Broadcasters’ Association, realized the rapidly changing FCC Rules, along with varying interpretations around the country, were creating problems for stations trying to stay in compliance.  Meanwhile, the FCC realized that state broadcasters’ association inspections could help broadcasters find out if they have overlooked any FCC Rules, and then, once in compliance, avoid most FCC inspections.

BUILDING A PROGRAM

Seeking advice from other state executive directors and some of the FCC’s top staffers, Wychor sought to foster a standardized interpretation of the Rules.  By 1995, a program was developed giving stations a non-threatening way to have an inspection, correct any deficiencies, and be “certified in good faith as basically compliant.”

To make the program more appealing, the FCC has stipulated that once they are notified of a satisfactory inspection the subject station will be precluded from surprise, random inspections for three years.

However, there are a couple of “exclusions” to the inspection-free period.  Even if your station has gone through and passed an ABIP inspection,  the FCC always reserves the right to inspect stations should they receive serious complaints.  Also, certain EEO, political file matter, and safety issues with towers are not included in the exclusion.

ABIP

The alternative Broadcast Inspection Program is conducted similar to – and uses the same protocol as – a standard FCC inspection.  To fully qualify, the inspectors must have demonstrated their knowledge of the Rules and Regulations and most have spent time in the field with a real FCC inspector.

The ABIP inspection examines:

  • The public information files.
  • Station licenses (main and any auxiliaries)
  • EAS system compliance
  • Daily and monthly logs.

Additionally, the verification of proper station operations in accordance of the license includes:

  • Transmitter power (and efficiency).
  • Frequency
  • Modulation
  • Tower lighting and marking

GETTING INTO THE PROGRAM

Participation in the program is very easy.  Print out the REQUEST FOR INSPECTION FORM, sign, and email with payment to the South Dakota Broadcasters Association office, or contact us at 605.224.1034 for a “REQUEST FOR INSPECTION FORM” to be sent to you.

You are not required to be a member of the SDBA to participate in the program, but the SDBA is proud to subsidize the inspection costs for our Member Stations.

Costs will vary depending on your facilities:

  • Single AM Non-directional or Stand Alone FM
    (Inspection Fee:  $110.00 for SDBA Members / $220 Non-Members)
  • AM Non-Directional and co-located FM combo
    (Inspection Fee:  $220.00 for SDBA Members / $440 Non-Members)
  • AM with Directional Antenna
    (Inspection Fee:  $220.00 for SDBA Members / $330 Non-Members)
  • AM with Directional Antenna & co-located FM combo
    (Inspection Fee:  $330.00 for SDBA Members / $550 Non-Members)
  • Television Stations
    (Inspection Fee:  $220.00 per station for SDBA Members / $440 Non-Members)
  • Re-Inspections / Call Back
    (Actual time @ $45.00 / hour – Stations will be required to pay the full re-inspection rate themselves.)

THE INSPECTION

Once you have signed the REQUEST FOR INSPECTION FORM, and paid the monies due, the agency will then notify the FCC of a pending inspection.  For 150 days after the notification, the FCC will not conduct an inspection on the subject station.

You also may have a choice how you want the inspection done.  You can set a specific day and time for the state agency inspector to visit your stations.  The station can also opt to allow a “surprise” visit from their inspector.  This is the truest form of an FCC inspection and will allow you to see how well your employees would handle the situation should an Enforcement Bureau inspector show up at your door.

In all cases, the inspection will use the broadcast self-inspection checklists that are found on the FCC’s website:  http://www.fcc.gov/eb/bc-chklsts

As a rule of thumb, once the inspection begins you should allow 4-6 hours for the inspector to finish.  Of course, complex operations with multiple sites will take more time than a co-located studio and transmitter.

For example, a six-station cluster with a couple of directional AM’s that have separate day and night patterns with many monitoring points definitely will take longer than a couple of FM’s unless the transmitters are located on a mountaintop several hours away.

BENEFITING FROM THE ABIP

As the inspection progresses, the inspector will make notes and discuss any issues of non-compliance as they come up.  After the inspection is over, the inspector will sit down with you, your management, and Chief Operator.  Together you can discuss the non-compliance areas, as well as the necessary remediation.

Several days after the inspection, you should receive a more detailed (and confidential) report on violations and deficiencies found – and the possible forfeitures that would have been realized if the FCC had found them.  You now have a list of what needs to be fixed and corrected.

However, do not let time get away from you!  You will only be given a short amount of time to get the deficiencies corrected.

In some cases, you will need to provide the inspector with proof of compliance – for example, a signed contract for tower painting.  In other cases, a re-inspection may be in order.

SAVED BY THE CERTIFICATE

Once your inspection is complete and you get a clean bill of health, you will receive a Certificate of Compliance from the South Dakota Broadcasters Association.

We recommend posting this Certificate in a very prominent place in the station’s main lobby.  For one thing, it is something of which to be justifiably proud.  And secondly, sometimes the FCC does make mistakes and stations will get left off the “Do Not Inspect” list.  If it happens an FCC inspector shows up your station and goes to work, simply show them your Certificate of Compliance, and they will leave.

You can spend approximately $300 for an inspection from your friendly SDBA inspector, or risk tens of thousands of dollars in fines from the long arm of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.

Which way would you rather go?

Excerpts of this article taken from FCC Focus, by Scott Cason, Radio Guide July 2006.