Monday, February 03, 2014

Confessions of a Retired Field Inspector

“I’m the first man they look for and the last they want to meet. It’s a chancy job, and it makes a man watchful … and a little lonely.”

A teenaged John Reiser stands outside his first place of radio employment, station WATT in Cadillac, Mich. Those words were part of Marshal Matt Dillon’s opening soliloquy in the radio version of “Gunsmoke” but could well apply to any of the hundreds of individuals who’ve served as FCC field inspectors.

No matter how “clean” your station might be, you have a panic response when that federal official unexpectedly shows up for a “visit.” It’s akin to seeing a blue light flashing in your rearview mirror even though you’ve done nothing wrong and the officer just wants you to get out of the way so he can pursue someone else.

John Reiser was among those who reviewed station logs and public files, counted spare tubes and tower lights, measured operating frequencies and percentages of modulation, and even carefully scrutinized transmitter meters for signs of a sticky movement.

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