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FCC warns pirate radio operators in New York, New Jersey

The warnings are part of the FCC's broad enforcement actions available under the PIRATE Act.

The warnings are part of the FCC's broad enforcement actions available under the PIRATE Act.

The front of the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, D.C. (FCC public domain image)
The front of the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, D.C. (FCC public domain image)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week sent warning letters to more than a dozen landlords in New York and New Jersey after determining their property was the origin of various pirate radio broadcasts.

The letters are part of the FCC’s broad enforcement action allocated to them by Congress in 2020 after federal lawmakers passed the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act. The law allows the FCC to impose financial penalties of more than $115,000 per day that a pirate radio broadcast operates, up to a maximum fine of $2.32 million.

“The law is clear: Owners can no longer turn a blind eye to pirate radio operations on their property,” Loyaan Egal, the head of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Such activities can interfere with licensed broadcast signals and do not meet the emergency alerting responsibilities of lawful radio stations.”

The Desk obtained a copy of each warning letter sent to the 16 landlords in both states this week. According to the letters, the landlords that were warned about the illegal broadcasts were:

  • Abdul Salem Mused of Brooklyn (New York), the owner of AFAI Rockaway Corp., the listed owner of a property in Brooklyn where an illegal radio station is purportedly operating on 99.9 FM.
  • Bernadette C. Booker of Brooklyn (New York), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly operating on 99.7 FM.
  • Andrea Coke of the Bronx (New York), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly operating on 101.7 FM.
  • Crown Heights LLC of Brooklyn (New York), the listed property owner where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 91.9 FM.
  • Cesar M. Espejo of Paterson (New Jersey), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 99.3 FM.
  • Bernard and Anne Mede of Maplewood (New Jersey), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 91.7 FM.
  • The Special Trust of Samuel Merceus of Irvington (New Jersey), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 88.5 FM.
  • Antoine and Aceline Mercius of Newark (New Jersey), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 87.9 FM.
  • Joseph Alexander of the Bronx (New York), the operator of the New Covenant Christian Church, which is the listed owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly operating on 88.9 FM.
  • Newkirk 225 LLC of Brooklyn (New York), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 100.7 FM.
  • Elizabeth O. Ojofetimi of Brooklyn (New York), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 107.9 FM.
  • Joseph Frantz, the operator of R&R Management LLC, which is listed as the property owner where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 90.9 FM.
  • Rita Joseph of Queens (New York), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 88.5 FM.
  • RochPark Realty LLC of Jackson (New Jersey), the listed owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 97.5 FM.
  • Michael and Gracia Simms of Livingston (New Jersey), the owner of a property where an illegal radio station is purportedly broadcasting on 102.1 FM.
  • David Deutsch, the agent of record for a property owned by WIRA Associates of Brooklyn (New York) where an illegal radio station is purportedly operating on 95.9 FM.

In each of the 16 cases, the FCC said it was acting on a complaint filed by someone prior to launching an investigation. The agency said it determined the origins of the illicit broadcast signals by using direction-finding equipment.

While the FCC has traditionally only pursued individuals or groups that are actually responsible for pirate radio and television signals, the PIRATE Act allowed the FCC to impose liability for those broadcasts on landlords as well, even if they were unaware that someone on their property was transmitting an illegal or unlicensed signal.

The warnings letters appeared to show extreme lenience by the FCC, in that they took the appearance of a notification to landlords who may have been unaware of the illegal broadcasts. The letter allows the landlords to correct the problem before the FCC moves forward with fines.

Over the last few months, the FCC has accelerated its use of enforcement abilities offered through the PIRATE Act. In March, the agency imposed large fines against a trio of illegal radio operators, including a single $2.316 million penalty against two New York-based pirate radio broadcasters.

The recent enforcement action has broad support from the commercial broadcast industry, including the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which issued a statement on the warning letters sent to property owners this week.

“NAB congratulates the FCC on its recent enforcement actions against illegal broadcast pirate operations,” Alex Siciliano, a spokesperson for the NAB, wrote on Tuesday. “Pirate radio stations interfere with both licensed broadcast stations and air traffic control systems. In recent years, reductions of FCC field enforcement led directly to increased pirate activity and required Congressional action to provide the additional tools necessary to effectively combat these illegal operators by placing liability on the landowners who facilitate them.”

Siciliano said NAB was looking forward to more enforcement actions now that the FCC has “full funding of the 2020 PIRATE Act now in place.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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