FCC’s Michael O’Reilly: Don’t tune in to “harmful broadcasts”

Many thanks to an SWLing Post reader who shares the following letter by FCC Commissioner Michael O’RieIly to NYC representatives regarding pirate radio operators.

This passage is of particular interest–I put one statement in bold:

“Since your Congressional district is located within or near the most prolific market for pirate radio, I wanted to seek your direct assistance on the issue. Specifically, I respectfully request that you discourage any of your constituents in the greater New York City radio market from facilitating pirate radio activities in any way, including participating in pirate operations, advertising with such “stations,” housing or leasing space to pirate operators, or tuning in to these harmful broadcasts. finally, I would appreciate any information that you or your staff would be willing to share regarding the location of known pirate operations, which will be swiftly directed to the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau for action.”

The full letter:

Click here to download the full letter as a PDF. 

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11 thoughts on “FCC’s Michael O’Reilly: Don’t tune in to “harmful broadcasts”

  1. ThaDood

    Ya know, it’s bad enough that we’re fighting to get on the airwaves as it is, now this federal corporate coddler thinks that he can really suggest that people stop listening to so-called Pirate stations. If this didn’t sound so pathetic, it would be laughable. Let’s just hope that this douche of a chairman does not get any further, like making it a law not to listen to such stations, like they did with cell phone listening back in 1986. That law was (is), bad enough.

  2. bob

    Telling people not to listen will just encourage people to listen more out of curiosity.

    Censorship run on fear will always fail.

  3. TomL

    An unelected Bureaucrat who uses Fear words to cower people from listening to what is on the Air. Government “owns” the Air don’t you know, and they will send Radio Police to your home to arrest you for listening to Pirates. Commissioner O’Rielly is really just pandering to his Base – embattled Broadcasters who are losing market share to the internet and cable. Call this for what it is, a self-interested political hack who caves to lobbyists’ pressure to protect them.

    1. Laurence N.

      I agree with your sentiment, but let’s at least be honest. He’s planning to send police to the transmitters, not the listeners. That wouldn’t be possible, and he hasn’t expressed a desire to do so. He does want people to choose not to listen, probably because he doesn’t want them to respond to advertising and help the business model, but he cannot require it and his statement makes that more of an “I’d like you to please do this”, which is a lot less threatening when nobody other than us is listening and we don’t care. So it’s less censorship than following the standard FCC practices with excessive and ridiculous language.

  4. John Figliozzi

    I would suggest that the stations that run hate radio programs like “Infowars” and other programs that encourage rage — whether psychic or material — against others are far more harmful in reality than a few people in a community filling the yawning gap that commercial broadcasters leave.

  5. Tom Reitzel

    Seriously, this commissioner just exemplifies the political bias infecting the FCC and ALL governmental agencies. It’s time for the axe. I’ve posted previously about the proper direction for the FCC, a radical downsizing and transfer of many functions to lower levels of government and private organizations like the ARRL. Furthermore, the FCC’s chairman should be an engineer, not a lawyer. Lawyers can be consulted as a secondary function while maintaining technical excellence as its primary function. Constitutionally corrupt law at the federal level is rampant. Corrupt law MUST be replaced.

    1. rtc

      Second the engineer sentiment…when my late father and I started
      in amateur radio in 1962 most field personal were engineers and
      Now it seems most are not,or are brodband types.
      And radio suffers for it,too.

    2. Jake Brodsky, AB3A

      This, unfortunately, is nothing new. The Commission has always been subject to the whims of politics going back at least as far as the 1980s. And in fairness the decisions they make are inevitably political.

      That said, one would expect that a commissioner would understand something about the basics of telecommunications policy. But it hasn’t been that way in decades and the tradition of technical ignorance continues unabated.

  6. Jake Brodsky, AB3A

    Yet another ignorant politician. We’re lucky if he knows what’s the Constitution he swore to uphold says. The chance that he’d understand telecommunications policy are next to nothing.

    A polite letter explaining to him that people have a right to tune to whatever they want to listen to is appropriate. Another point worth making is that there is that with modern radios, there is no way that he, or anyone else, can determine what people have been listening to in the privacy of their own homes.

    As an aside, I am rather surprised that pirate radio is still a thing. It’s so easy to set up streaming services on the Internet that I can’t imagine why anyone would bother with the expense and risk of setting up an illegal radio station.

    1. Iona

      Here in the UK the level of pirate radio activity has declined precipitously over the past few years. New digital radio platforms and online streaming mean that FM pirate radio is somewhat redundant.

      Serious and professional operators of the past have moved to online/apps/etc and we’re left with idiots with poor quality Chinese eBay transmitters and questionable programming on FM. One recent pirate in my area was playing out distorted music with homophobic lyrics – it’s of no benefit to anyone. The crackdown is probably due now that prospective station operators have so many legal ways onto the air.


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