If you take your station off the air temporarily during the pandemic, keep the tower lights on. That’s the advice from Wilkinson Barker Knauer attorney David Oxenford. Taking a station silent “Is often a last resort” in “desperate financial times,” he says in a blog post.
“While Payroll Protection Act loans have helped many small broadcasters avoid that action even in light of the dramatic decrease in broadcast advertising revenue in the last two months,” though relief may come to some areas looking to reopen, “we have still heard of some stations that just can’t manage continued operations in this period of turmoil – either for financial or operational reasons caused by the current health crisis,” he writes. “If this action is in the cards for your station because of the pandemic or for any other reason including technical failures, do not forget about the FCC requirements for taking a station silent.”
He reminds readers that tower lights need to be operating, even if a station is off the air. Vertical Bridge CEO Alex Gellman confirmed Wednesday during a virtual Wireless West webinar that his company is “seeing distress among small radio broadcasters. Their revenue has dropped 60 to 80 percent almost immediately” due to the pandemic. It’s one place we’re seeing our tenants asking us for help.” The company has never seen this situation with this category of tower tenant before, he added.
Data from PrecisionTrak/Inside Radio shows nearly 370 stations have gone off the air since March 11, when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. In their applications to temporarily go dark, 38 percent told the FCC that financial reasons caused by the coronavirus drove their decision. Others said because of lockdowns, they haven’t been able to get crews to come on-site and make repairs, reported Inside Radio.