Who's in Charge Here?
At first glance you might think that the presence of a 977 foot television tower in the middle of one of the world's most beautiful cities, at one of the highest points in the city, in a green belt, 200 ft away from residences, would be a local issue under local control. Think again!

Although the television and radio broadcasters who utilize Sutro Tower are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the tower itself is carefully overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) - and by the way, that's why it's painted with those beautiful white and aviation-orange ("red" to most of us) stripes.

Because of recent local opposition to antenna and tower placement throughout many communities, the National Association of Broadcasters, among others, have vigorously lobbied Congress to take antenna and tower placement decisions away from local authorities, in order to facilitate the "orderly" placement and construction of such structures and systems.

Sure, we all enjoy the technology this brings us, but it also makes it difficult to oppose what might be dangerous placement and/or RFR levels at a local level.

Here's an example of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) position on the issue of local control over tower placement.

The industry is very excited about the prospects for Digital Television (DTV) in the marketplace. Witness this recent speech by FCC Commissioner Susan Ness at the January 8th, 1998, Consumer Electronics Show.

The FCC has mandated that DTV broadcasting begin in certain markets by November 1, 1999 through May 1, 2003, and that analog broadcasting is targeted to cease in 2006 in most markets. This directly affects Sutro Tower's desire to construct the DTV mast as soon as possible. MM Docket No. 97-182 FCC 97-296 Among considerations raised by the commissioners in FCC 97-296 were "22. Should the Commission preempt state and local restrictions regarding exposure to RF emissions from broadcast transmission facilities? Are there other circumstances in which it is appropriate for the Commission to preempt state and local regulation of the siting or construction of transmission facilities? Should federal regulation preempt local regulation intended for aesthetic purposes?"

Furthermore, FCC 97-296 states that "(1) No state or local government or instrumentality thereof may deny a request to place, construct or modify a broadcast antenna facility on the basis of: (i) the environmental or health effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facility has been determined by the Commission to comply with the Commission's regulations and/or policies concerning such emissions; (ii) interference effects on existing or potential telecommunications providers, end users, broadcasters or third parties, to the extent that the broadcast antenna facility has been determined by the Commission to comply with applicable Commission regulations and/or policies concerning interference; "

The FCC maintains a page containing some information regarding the "hot topics" of federal vs state and local issues, including the control of siting of communications facilities.

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