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FCC imposes $3.5 million in fines against Miami-area radio pirates

An anti-piracy billboard. (Image by Lord Jim via Flickr Creative Commons, Graphic: Descrier)
An anti-piracy billboard. (Image by Lord Jim via Flickr Creative Commons, Graphic: Descrier)

Regulators at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week approved sweeping fines against a half-dozen pirate radio operators in the Miami area.

The fines, which totaled more than $3.5 million, were approved by the full board of the FCC during its open meeting on Thursday.

The matters were listed on a public agenda as “enforcement actions” with no further information. A spokesperson for the FCC told The Desk by email that enforcement actions are typically not made public until they are approved by commissioners at their open meetings.

The fines are connected to a sweeping federal law passed by Congress in 2020 that gave the FCC broader authority to pursue radio pirates who broadcast on reserved frequencies without a license. The law, called the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act, allows the FCC to impose financial penalties of up to $2 million per instance, upward adjusted for inflation (the current maximum penalty is $2.39 million).

Fabrice Polynice, the operator of a radio station called “Touché Douce,” received the maximum proposed fine allowed by the FCC after broadcasting on 90.1 FM for more than three weeks last year, the FCC said.  Polynice was previously subject to FCC enforcement actions in 2013 and 2018, the agency affirmed, calling him “one of the longest operating pirates in the Miami area.” Federal law enforcement seized some of his broadcast equipment two years ago, according to court records reviewed by The Desk.

Additionally, the FCC proposed fines against three other alleged radio pirates — Brindley Marshall, Wilfrid Salomon, and Cameron Brown — for operating several illegal broadcast stations “for years,” despite having “received multiple warnings to cease their unauthorized broadcasting,” the FCC said.

The fines against Marshal, Salomon and Brown amount to $358,665 each — the maximum allowed for three days’ worth of broadcasting last year, the FCC affirmed.

Finally, the FCC proposed a $120,000 fine against Abdias Datis, who allegedly operated a pirate radio station for three days in 2023. It wasn’t clear from the FCC’s notice if Datis had received prior warnings before the proposed fine was approved.

In a statement, FCC Chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel said the alleged pirates had the potential to interfere with licensed radio activities.

“These operators were not just using the public airwaves unlawfully, they were increasing the risk for harmful interference of authorized users,” Rosenworcel said. “That is unacceptable.”

The FCC said the proposed fines contain allegations of illegal pirate broadcasting, and all six individuals will be given an opportunity to challenge them.

“The parties will be given an opportunity to respond, and the Commission will consider the parties’ submissions of evidence and legal arguments before acting further to resolve the matter,” an FCC spokesperson said on Thursday.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).