Pai: Broadcasters Should Be Able To Sue Pirates


Just days after FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler told a House Subcommittee new laws were needed to help the government crack down on pirate radio stations, Commissioner Ajit Pai echoed those sentiments. And Pai has a suggestion for allowing broadcasters to take enforcement into their own hands. Pai was a keynote speaker at the Radio Ink Hispanic Radio Conference in South Florida, Wednesday, where, by the way, pirate radio stations are a big problem.

One interesting proposal Pai recommends is for the legislature to give radio broadcasters a private right of action against pirate operators. “This would allow a broadcaster to directly sue a pirate who is interfering with its signal. No longer would a broadcaster need to wait for the FCC to take action.” Everybody seems to agree that the FCC’s approach to closing down pirates has become a Whack-A-Mole policy. Pai says Commissioner O’Rielly has introduced a proposal to allow broadcasters to sue and he hopes lawmakers will give it serious consideration.

A second suggestions from Pai is to take action against advertisers that spend their money on pirate stations. After all, he says, that flow of dollars plays a key role in keeping pirates on the air. “If a business knowingly purchases commercials on a pirate radio station, it is knowingly aiding and abetting unlawful behavior, and there should be consequences. Moreover, if companies don’t perform basic due diligence and ensure that the radio stations on which they are advertising are licensed, there should be consequences for that negligent action as well.”


  1. And the big, unanswered question is what happens when stations go after a legitimate spectrum users are are using unlicensed but legal FCC Part 15 certified equipment only because a licensed broadcaster perceives a threat? Hobbyists and educational institutions that use Part 15 radio for educational and recreational purposes aren’t going to have the money to defend themselves against bogus claims. We agree that pirate radio is a widespread and ongoing problem and the FCC have proven ineffective in resolving the issue, all while sometimes harassing individuals using 100 milliwatt Part 15 compliant transmitters while allowing blatant pirate stations to operate unchallenged. Do you believe licensed broadcasters have the time or resources to distinguish between a blatant pirate and a Part 15 radio enthusiast?

    Bill DeFelice
    Webmaster /


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