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FCC issued three fines, mailed 44 notices, related to pirate radio broadcasts in 2023

(Photo: Pixabay, Graphic: The Desk)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it fined three pirate radio broadcasters last year, despite issuing nearly four dozen notices about illegal broadcasters that could have brought in tens of millions of dollars in penalties.

In its annual report to Congress released on Wednesday, the FCC said it imposed the maximum allowable fine of over $2.31 million against a pair of pirate radio operators in New York, and an additional $80,000 fine against a similar pirate in Oregon.

Both fines were issued before the 2023 fiscal year, the FCC said, but the penalties were upheld by the agency last October, so they were included in the report.

In addition to the fines, the FCC said it issued 44 notices to property owners and managers about illegal radio broadcasts originating from homes and other buildings on their land, including 25 notices that were sent after so-called “pirate sweeps.”

“Because pirate radio stations often cease operating for a period of time but then return, the Bureau will continue to monitor the properties for which notices were provided and will initiate enforcement action where appropriate,” the FCC said in the report.

In 2020, Congress passed the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act, which gave the FCC broader authority to pursue individuals who broadcast on radio frequencies that are reserved for licensed operators.

The PIRATE Act allowed the FCC to impose fines up to $2 million that could be upward adjusted for inflation (the current maximum penalty is $2.3 million), pursue property owners whose land is connected to pirate radio broadcasts, and conduct sweeps in five major metropolitan areas with a high concentration of pirate radio broadcasts.

The PIRATE Act also requires the FCC to produce and distribute an annual notice about its enforcement actions pursuant to the law, which are typically made public in January.

Throughout 2023, the FCC said it used money allocated through the PIRATE Act to hire four full-time employees and purchase vehicles equipped with mobile direction-finding equipment. More employees and vehicles are expected to come into the agency throughout 2024, the FCC affirmed.

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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).