The FCC’s mission to shut down pirate radio

Recently, there have been numerous articles regarding FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s efforts to increase pirate radio enforcement. This article in The Outline is a worthy read and features our good friend David Goren prominently:

The FCC wants pirate radio stations off the air

Immigrant communities rely on these unlicensed broadcasts to stay connected to their roots. Now they could lose the signal.

On any given night, David Goren can tune into more than 30 underground radio stations from his apartment in Flatbush, Brooklyn. “About a dozen of them broadcast in Creole, to the Haitian community,” Goren, a local journalist and producer who researches the city’s pirate stations, told The Outline. “A lot of the stations will air news from home.” In addition to news and politics updates, Goren said, these stations feature Caribbean music that doesn’t get airtime on mainstream stations, advertisements for local businesses, and occasional call-in sessions with immigration attorneys.

For some immigrant communities across the country, these underground radio stations are an easy way of staying connected to one’s roots. In New York City, there may be more unlicensed broadcasters than licensed ones. Some of these clandestine broadcasters are small enterprises, while others are full-fledged stations that run advertisements and generate revenue. All of them run the risk of being fined — or in some states, including New York, New Jersey, and Florida, having their operators imprisoned — if they’re caught by the Federal Communications Commission.

[…]A map of enforcement actions on the FCC’s website illustrates the crackdown. The FCC has undertaken 306 pirate investigations since Pai took office in January 2017. The majority of these actions — 210, according to a press release issued by the agency on Wednesday — were Notices of Unauthorized Operations, warnings from the FCC telling the unlicensed stations to immediately shut down or risk fines and prison time. The release also notes that the FCC “took more than twice as many actions against pirate broadcasters” in 2017 than it did the previous year. (For the first time since its inception, the agency said, it has begun holding property owners liable for “supporting this illegal activity on their property.”)[…]

Click here to read the full article on The Outline.

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4 thoughts on “The FCC’s mission to shut down pirate radio

  1. Lou

    While I’ve suggested this very idea in the past, I now realize that if the FCC or Congress is involved, expanding the FM band will only result in regulations being put into place that protect the interests of the NAB and the large media conglomerates.

    Just take a look at how “obtuse” it is to obtain a LPFM license. The mountain of paperwork, time, and money needed is beyond the reach of a smaller community station. The leap to just becoming a recognized non-profit in most states is enough to derail the whole process.

    It’s time for the FCC to butt out when it comes to pirate operations unless those stations are found to be obscene. After all, the radio spectrum doesn’t belong to the Federal Government. It belongs to the American People……..but that’s a
    deep and dark rabbit hole for another time.

  2. Jake Brodsky

    Radio syndication is so big that there is nowhere for it to grow. Radio is turning in to the equivalent of a fast food desert. It’s nothing but the same fast food programming everywhere on the radio dial. The formats are usually very stodgy vertical playlists with under 100 pieces of music, some played as much as several times a day. One station owner once confessed to me that he’d play the sound of roaring chainsaws 24 hours a day if there was money in it. They really don’t care what they sound like. That’s why even the Satellite Radio services are a huge yawn.

    There is no excitement of picking up a weird, offbeat station –except in Pirate Radio. The fact that such stations exist is proof that it is needed. I fear that opening up the 76 to 88 MHz spectrum is only going to give us more of the same old tired garbage that we’ve been hearing for decades.

    I think we need to limit the extent of syndication in any new broadcast spectrum so that new formats and new programs have a place to experiment, develop new listener profiles and habits, and try things that the big syndicates are afraid to test. If we’re serious about revitalizing radio, we should really consider what the pirate broadcasters have been doing and find ways to make room for that sort of activity.

    1. Tom Reitzel

      Exactly. Allan Weiner of WBCQ is just the man for the job, too. The FCC is a laughable joke and has been for most of its unfortunate life. Kill it. Pai isn’t necessarily the problem, but rather the FCC itself. Witness the national screw-up in Hawaii which is just the tip of the FCC’s incompetence.

  3. rtc

    Time for opening the 76-88 mhz band?
    88-108 is chock full in most places,the
    big chain translators for every iboc
    subchannel don’t help either.


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