Tower Prankster Punks FCC

One month ago, Robert Gonsett, publisher of a newsletter that tracks tech goings-on in broadcasting, was tipped off about something very odd going on with stations in Southern California.

More than a dozen, most located on the giant Mt. Wilson antenna farm outside Los Angeles, were asking the FCC for permission either to move their towers to a new spot on the mountain or to alter their transmission power. Puzzled, Gonsett phoned his buddies at KABC-TV, Fox-owned KTTV(TV)and other stations that were supposedly seeking the license modifications.

When engineers at those stations denied making the requests, Gonsett contacted the FCC. Turns out a prankster has filed more than 40 fraudulent applications to change power levels and antenna locations for TV and radio stations throughout Southern California by tapping into the FCC’s electronic application system.

The FCC says it has removed the bogus filings from its system and has identified the individual responsible. Still, as of deadline no legal action had been announced.

The prank is possible partly because the FCC’s electronic system for filing applications for changes, set up five years ago, allows any individual to open an account. FCC officials say they don't know what is motivating the phantom filer but didn’t find anything funny about his electronic attacks. “It’s malicious,” complained one staffer.