FCC Heightens Crackdown of Illegal ‘Pirate Radio’ Stations

April 12, 2018, 2:13 PM

The Federal Communications Commission has heightened its crackdown on illegal broadcasters.

The agency more than doubled the number of actions in 2017 against unlicensed “pirate radio” broadcasters, compared to the previous year, it said in an April 11 statement.

Since January 2017, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has undertaken 306 investigations and issued 210 notices of unlicensed operations to illegal operators. The agency also has imposed $143,800 in fines and proposed fines totaling $323,688 since the start of 2017, it said.

Federal law prohibits operating broadcast radio or TV stations without an FCC license. Such operations can interfere with licensed broadcasters’ programming and public safety messages, the FCC says.

“Fighting unlawful broadcasts is a top enforcement priority for the FCC,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Pirate operators can interfere with important public safety announcements and hurt licensed broadcasters’ business. Consumers should be able to get the news and information programming they count on.”

The agency also for the first time took action against property owners for allegedly supporting pirate broadcasting on their property.

GOP Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said late last month that he supports sharp tactics, such as holding landlords liable for pirate radio operators on their properties, to fight pirate broadcasting. “This FCC will not sit idly by while pirates flaunt our rules,” O’Rielly said in a statement March 28.

Podcasts, online radio streaming, and other digital solutions can help startup broadcasters reach listeners without breaking FCC rules, the FCC said.

(Updates with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Jeffries in Washington at tjeffries@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com

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