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FCC Targeting Property Owners in Pirate Radio Enforcement

The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau has begun targeting property owners and managers that tolerate pirate broadcasting on their properties.  The commission has issued an announcement that it is exercising its new authority under the recently enacted PIRATE Act.  “Parties that knowingly facilitate illegal broadcasting on their property are liable for fines of up to $2 million,” it stated.

Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold said, “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 don’t, she said, they risk a heavy fine, followed by collection action in court. “In addition, our enforcement actions will be made public, which may create further unforeseen business risks.” She emphasized what the FCC and broadcasters have been saying for years: that pirate radio is illegal, and can interfere with licensed stations and emergency alerting.

Broadcasters have pushed for decades for the FCC to be more aggressive in combating illegal broadcasting. FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has been a vocal proponent of giving the commission more tools to do that, and Congress did so in the PIRATE Act.

The bureau will provide written notice to property owners and managers that it thinks “are turning a blind eye to — or even helping facilitate — illegal broadcasting.” It also has created a new “Notice of Illegal Pirate Radio Broadcasting.” The notice provides owners a period of time to remedy the problem before any enforcement action proceeds.

The FCC has issued the first three notices on September 17 to property owners in the Queens area of New York City where unlicensed signals have been traced.  Property owners are given 10 days to respond before the FCC will take further action.

In a release issued December 17, The argument is that landlords and property managers often know of the activity, and the bureau said it has previously sent warnings to landlords and sought cooperation from national property owners’ organizations to raise awareness. “With pirate broadcasts persisting despite these efforts, Congress took action and empowered the commission to penalize property owners and managers that knowingly permit pirate broadcasters to remain operating from the landlord’s buildings or unbuilt areas,” it stated.

“Landlords and property managers also may be found liable if a pirate station ceases operation for some period of time but later resumes at the same site.”

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