Broadcasters would likely call it money well-spent, but it’s still cash coming from the federal government’s hands. The Federal Communications Commission estimates it will cost the agency at least $11 million to enforce the newly-adopted law that requires it to step up pirate radio enforcement. “Specifically, in order to combat the problem of illegal radio operations, the statute requires a sweeping process that will require new equipment and a substantial number of additional field agents to implement fully,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee during a hearing on Tuesday. Pai said he hoped congressional budget writers would determine a “reasonable funding level” for the FCC that reflects that added cost, suggesting the agency’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year should be raised to $354 million.
Signed into law by President Trump last month, the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act, or “PIRATE” Act (S.1228) was unanimously approved by both the Senate and House. The new law raises fines on unlicensed station operators to $100,000 per day per violation, up to a maximum of $2 million. In addition to tougher fines on violators, the FCC would also be required to conduct sweeps in the five cities where pirate radio is the biggest problem—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas—at least once a year. And then, within six months, field agents would be mandated to return to those markets to conduct “monitoring sweeps” to determine whether the unlicensed operators simply powered back up or changed frequencies. The agency would also be required to issue a report to Congress on an annual basis about its pirate-fighting efforts.
Pai told the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee that the FCC is already gearing up for implementing the new law. “We are submitting a formal amendment to the Office of Management and Budget concerning costs associated with the full implementation of the PIRATE Act,” said Pai.[…]
“Opponents of illegal broadcasting scored a major and long-anticipated victory today: The Senate (finally) unanimously passed the PIRATE Act Wednesday.
Short for “Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement,” only one hurdle remains for S.R. 1228: President Trump’s desk.
The legislation also represents a coup for FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who has championed the anti-piracy enforcement actions recently.
In response to the act’s Senate passage, National Association of Broadcasters President/CEO Gordon Smith said, ‘This legislation provides stronger resources to help the FCC combat illegal pirate radio operations, which not only interfere with licensed radio stations but also public safety communications and air traffic control systems. We look forward to the President signing the PIRATE Act into law.’”[…]
After filing a civil action and seeking an injunction to stop a church-related pirate radio station from operating in Worcester, Massachusetts, the US Attorney’s Office this week reached a settlement with the station’s operators, Vasco Oburoni and Christian Praise International Church. US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold announced the settlement on June 10. […]According to a consent decree filed on June 10 and subject to court approval, Oburoni and Christian Praise International Church agree not to do so in the future. They also agreed to surrender all of their broadcasting equipment.
“In the event the FCC reasonably suspects that they have violated the Act, the FCC may inspect the premises and seize any broadcasting equipment,” an FCC news release said. If the FCC determines that “the defendants” have operated an unlicensed broadcasting station in violation of the settlement, they will be subject to a $75,000 fine. The FCC received complaints, including one from a licensed broadcaster, that the pirate station was causing interference.
According to the signed consent decree, Vasco Oburoni and Christian Praise International Church admitted that they operated a radio broadcast station in Worcester, on 97.1 MHz, without an FCC license and previously had operated an unlicensed radio station on 102.3 MHz. The FCC had issued multiple warnings and issued a Forfeiture Order in the amount of $15,000 against Oburoni. The FCC said Oburoni agreed to a payment plan but later began broadcasting again without a license on a different frequency.
As the workday winds down across New York, you can tune in to a clandestine world of unlicensed radio stations; a cacophonous sonic wonder of the city. As listeners begin to arrive home, dozens of secret transmitters switch on from rooftops in immigrant enclaves. These stations are often called ‘pirates’ for their practice of commandeering an already licensed frequency.
These rogue stations evade detection and take to the air, blanketing their neighbourhoods with the sounds of ancestral lands blending into a new home. They broadcast music and messages to diverse communities – whether from Latin America or the Caribbean, to born-again Christians and Orthodox Jews.
Reporter David Goren has long followed these stations from his Brooklyn home. He paints an audio portrait of their world, drawn from the culture of the street. Vivid soundscapes emerge from tangled clouds of invisible signals, nurturing immigrant communities struggling for a foothold in the big city.
With thanks to KCRW and the Lost Notes Podcast episode Outlaws of the Airwaves: The Rise of Pirate Radio Station WBAD.
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.”
FCC fines Amateur Radio licensee $25,000 for operating unlicensed FM station
ARRL reports in an FCC Enforcement Bureau case going back to early 2015, a Paterson, New Jersey, Amateur Radio licensee has been penalized in the amount of $25,000 for allegedly continuing to operate an unlicensed FM radio station
The FCC issued a Forfeiture Order on October 30 to Winston A. Tulloch, KC2ALN, a General class licensee. The fine followed an April 2018 Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) issued to Tulloch for alleged “willful and repeated violation” of Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, by operating an unlicensed FM radio station on 90.9 MHz in Paterson. Tulloch did not respond to the NAL, the FCC indicated.
“Commission action in this area is essential because unlicensed radio stations do not broadcast Emergency Alert Service messages and therefore create a public safety hazard for their listener,” the FCC said in the Forfeiture Order. “Moreover, unlicensed radio stations create a danger of interference to licensed communications and undermine the Commission’s authority over broadcast radio operations.”