Written by Attorney Joe Irby

What does the “Chief Operator” do, and why do I need one?

Chief Operator

A Chief Operator is a very important position. He acts as your station’s “go to guy” for many of the technical issues that arise on a seemingly daily basis. This is no job to be taken lightly. The FCC requires several mandatory duties for this person to perform.

On a broadcast station’s radio license, a Chief Operator must be designated. The Chief Operator’s requirements and duties are laid out in 47 CFR 73.1870, and they include:

If the station is an AM radio station that either uses a directional pattern antenna or operates with greater than 10 kW of power, or any TV station, the chief operator must be an employee of the station and must be on duty for the number of hours each week that the license holder determines is necessary to keep the broadcast station in compliance with the FCC’s rules and regulations.

If the broadcast station is an AM radio station with a non-directional antenna pattern operating with less than 10 kW, or the station is an FM radio station, the chief operator may be either an employee of the radio station or may be an independent contractor for whatever number of hours per week that the license holder determines is necessary to keep the broadcast station in compliance with the FCC’s rules and regulations.

The person named as chief operator must be designated in writing and a copy of the designation must be posted with the station license. Any agreements with the chief operator must be in writing and kept in the station’s files.

The chief operator is responsible for (whether he does the duties himself of delegates the duties to another person) inspections and calibrations of the transmission system, monitoring and metering of all control systems and the necessary adjustments needed for these systems, and monitoring the AM field measurements.

The chief engineer also must review the station’s records at least once each week to determine if required entries are being made correctly. He also must verify that the station is being operated in accordance with the license agreement, and the chief operator (or whoever he has assigned to do these tasks) must sign and date a log indicating he has done these things.

If the chief operator discovers problems, he must note these problems on the station’s log and indicate any corrective action he has taken, as well as informing the station’s license holder about the problems and how they were resolved.

The chief operator must also make any other entries in the stations records that are required by the FCC.

The Chief Operator is second only to the license-holder, and is a key player in the station’s important day-to-day operations.

This post is part of a series of posts on Radio Station & Broadcast Law: 47 CFR 73 – 74 & More