FCC levies $25K fine on Hilton Head radio station owner

gmartin@islandpacket.comMarch 14, 2012 

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The owner of a local radio station faces a $25,000 fine by the Federal Communications Commission.

Citing "willful and repeated" violations of its rules, the FCC recently levied the fine against Walter M. Czura, owner of "WNFO Sun City Hilton Head."

The Spanish-language station is not affiliated with the Sun City Hilton Head residential community nor is it inside its gates, according to Martin Smith, Sun City spokesman. The station broadcasts on 1430 AM.

In a March 8 letter to Czura, the FCC said he failed to maintain an effective and secure fence around the base of the station's radio tower near the intersection of S.C. 170 and Lowcountry Drive. It also failed to install Emergency Alert System equipment and make available a complete public inspection file, the letter said.

Attempts Wednesday to contact Czura were unsuccessful. He has until April 8 to seek a reduction or cancellation of the penalty.

"I'm at a complete loss as to how the station ever got that name," said Smith, who noted that Czura is not listed in the community's directory of residents.

On Wednesday, Smith asked the FCC to require the station's name be changed to Okatie or Ridgeland to better reflect the location of its transmission tower, saying the station's name is misleading. That tower is the subject of one of the disputes between Czura and the FCC agents who inspected it in July.

The FCC's letter says its agents observed that a large section of the fence surrounding the tower had collapsed, and it appeared to have been in that condition for more than one day, a violation of agency code resulting in a $7,000 penalty.

Czura was fined $8,000 for an apparent failure to install and maintain equipment and broadcast logs for its use of an Emergency Alert System. Czura told the agents vandals had disconnected that equipment and removed the logs.

The FCC also fined Czura $10,000 for failing to maintain an on-site public inspection file, which Czura said had been misplaced. Czura declined the inspectors' request to accompany them on their visit to the main studio.

Attempts by the Packet to find a local phone or address listing for the main studio were unsuccessful.

In the 1990s, the station served as an informational resource for tourists, but has since switched to an all-Spanish format.

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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