Skip to main content

NAB Warns Tower Changes Will Affect Rollout

The National Association of Broadcasters warns that changes to tower heights, sites or lights that are driven by concerns over bird collisions could delay the DTV transition, impede the rollout of broadband, jeopardize homeland security, even possibly cause planes to crash. They say it is all for "little, if any, impact on the future ecological viability of migratory birds."  NAB and the wireless phone industry argue in comments to the FCC that migratory bird collisions with towers are only a fraction of other "human-caused aviation mortality" which includes "window collisions, vehicle collisions, transmission lines, wind energy facilities, pesticides and oil pollution, hunting and domestic cat predation."

Estimates vary from 4 million to as many as 50 million tower-related bird deaths annually. Most estimates fall on the lower end of that scale.

Just last week, the FCC said it was included to mandate medium intensity white strobe lights over red obstruction lights as its preference for tower lighting without compromising safety and asked whether there were more it should do to protect the birds.

In the filing, NAB and other companies argue that "a white strobe lighting preference...may endanger air safety. The primary purpose of nighttime lighting is to enhance aircraft navigation safety by marking obstacles to air navigation. According to one commenter, “It has been well documented . . . that exposure to strobe lighting can cause flicker vertigo resulting in pilot disorientation, aircraft mishaps and loss of human life.”

The groups say, "infrastructure regulation addressing migratory birds is unsupported by the facts, the law and the public interest. Such regulation is unwarranted and would undermine key Commission priorities, including broadband deployment, public safety and facilities-based competition, while failing to materially advance the public interest."

On the other side of the argument are groups like the Humane Society and American Bird Conservancy, which have argued for the strobe lights and say that the tower deaths disproportionately affect "federally recognized 'birds of conservation concern.' "

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.