Tower Collapse Forces Hard Choices for KOZK-TV

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UPDATE KOZK-TV, Ozarks Public Television in Missouri is deciding whether to rebuild its tower or lease transmission space on another one after the April 19 collapse which killed one worker. At the same time, the FCC assured a U.S. Senator, the agency will help the station as it works to restore its infrastructure and comply with the TV spectrum repack.   

Missouri State University-operated KOZK placed a low-power transmitter on top of its building shortly after the accident, reported the Springfield News-leader. Inside Towers reported that Steve Lemay, 56, died in the tower collapse and three other workers experienced non-life threatening injuries. He was one of six workers who were around 100 feet up the structure when it collapsed.

Lemay’s company was working as a subcontractor for TCI Tower Consulting Inc. on that day. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration continues to investigate the cause of the collapse.   

MSU spokeswoman Suzanne Shaw told the News-Leader, the 1,980-foot tower, which was donated to the station roughly 18 years ago, was 50 years old. Workers were replacing cross beams on the tower so it could handle additional equipment and weight. “We were in the first wave of a channel repack,” Shaw said.  

MSU will likely make a short-term decision about what comes next for its tower within three months, according to Shaw. Leasing space on another broadcast tower seems likely, she said. However the station must still eventually move from Channel 23 to 16. Long-term, the university has not decided whether to build a new tower or sign a long-term lease on an existing broadcast tower that can handle the weight of the additional equipment.

The station expected to receive $3 million in reimbursement from the FCC — $1 million for tower modification and $2 million for equipment. However a new tower could cost up to about $5 million, according to the account. Insurance may cover some of the cost as well, according to Shaw.

In the meantime, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), told FCC Chairman Ajit Pai he was concerned the collapse could affect the station’s ability to meet its repack deadline and receive reimbursement funds. He asked the agency to help the station with information and resources to mitigate issues related to the tower collapse.

Pai responded that when he learned of the accident, he immediately asked staff to contact the station’s trade association, America’s Public Television Stations, to assess the situation and offer help. “Please be assured that Commission staff will continue to support Ozark Public Television, Missouri State University, and the people of the Springfield, Missouri as KOZK-21 evaluates its options, and we will do our best to help mitigate any issues as the station works to rebuild its infrastructure,” said Pai in a letter released last Friday.

June 19, 2018

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