FCC Pirate Radio Enforcement to Now Include Property Owners

For years the FCC has tried to track down illegal pirate radio stations in New York City.  Finding illegal pirate radio stations are a difficult task.  In the past, the FCC has first issued a Notice of Unlicensed Operation to the pirate.  This approach has proved to be ineffective.

Last week the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau began a new approach to eliminate illegal pirate radio operations. Using the provisions of the newly enacted PIRATE Radio Act, the FCC sent a notice to a building owner that it had an illegal pirate radio station operating on the premises.  The notice stated that if the building owner did not move to remove the illegal radio station on its building, the owner could be subject to a fine of up to $2 million.  Rosemary Harold, Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Division stated:

“It is unacceptable – and plainly illegal under the new law – for landlords and property managers to simply opt to ignore pirate radio operations.  Once they are aware of these unauthorized broadcasts, they must take steps to stop it from continuing in their buildings or at other sites they own or control.  If they do not do so, they risk receiving a heavy fine, followed by collection action in court if they do not pay it.  In addition, our enforcement actions will be made public, which may create further unforeseen business risks.”

This is a huge change in the focus of enforcement.  Prior to the PIRATE Act, a property owner could only be held liable if it was involved in the illegal radio operations.  Under the new approach the building owner is required to take action after receiving notice from the FCC.  A failure to act could result in a significant fine.  Importantly, the FCC’s first action under this new approach involved a building located in Queens!!

The FCC also streamlined its enforcement approach.  Absent good cause, it will no longer simply issue a Notice of Unlicensed Operation to an illegal operator.  These notices are often ignored and merely serve to warn the pirate to move its radio operations. Under the new process the FCC can move directly to a Notice of Apparent liability, i.e., the first step in issuing a fine.

We applaud these efforts. We have been asking for this approach for a long time. The FCC’s move to enforce against building owners that knowingly allow an illegal pirate radio operation on their property marks a dramatic shift in enforcement.  These illegal operators can interfere with airport communications, emergency alerts, and often operate at RF radiation levels above government standards in neighborhoods throughout New York City. They ignore FCC regulations and consumer protection laws. We hope that the FCC’s new emphasis on enforcement will reduce the number of illegal operators that have plagued NY City for so many years.

To see the Enforcement Bureau’s Release announcing its new enforcement approach click HERE.

To see the FCC’s Notice to a building owner in Queens click HERE.



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