FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is not a fan of pirate radio stations. Under his leadership at the FCC, there has been an increased effort to shut down pirates all across the country. However, Pai has also voiced his frustration that stopping these illegal operations is akin to the game of Whack-A-Mole — you shut one down, another pops up. That could be changing soon.
Broadcasters acknowledge that Pai, with a big assist from Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, are doing a much better job going after the pirates than previous FCCs, chaired by Thomas Wheeler or Julius Genachowski, perhaps even better than any previous FCC administration.
And Radio Ink has just learned that there is a very real possibility Congress may soon become involved. Two broadcasters have confirmed to Radio Ink that the NAB has been educating Congressional offices on the interference issues related to pirate radio. State associations are also pitching in by giving details about where these pirates are and the havoc they are wreaking. It appears that those efforts are paying off.
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) may soon sponsor legislation that would raise the fines for pirate radio operators “considerably,” maybe even up to $1 million. That fine is now $75,000. The legislation would also allow the FCC and/or federal law enforcement officers to go after landlords who knowingly allow radio pirates to operate on their property. One of Chairman Pai’s previously announced frustrations has been the people, such as landlords, that enable pirates to operate. Pai has said the FCC could use additional enforcement measures that might help deter these pirates from popping up, and others from helping them operate.
It’s also expected that the issue of pirate radio is going to be raised at an upcoming Congressional hearing that will be chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on communications and technology.
We caught up with David Donovan, President of The New York State Broadcasters Association last night. Here’s what he had to say about the pirates.”Illegal pirate radio stations been a tremendous problem in New York. They interfere with the Emergency Alert System, emit harmful unregulated RF radiation into neighborhoods, interfere with FAA and airport communications, ignore all consumer protection and FCC rules. Under the leadership of Commissioner Mike O’Rielly and Chairman Ajit Pai, we have seen a renewed willingness to enforce against these illegal operators. As many at the FCC have noted, Congress needs to provide the FCC with additional tools to help eradicate these harmful, illegal operations. We look forward to working with the FCC and members of Congress in a bi-partisan effort to finally resolved this vexing problem.”
It’s important you stay in touch with the NAB and your state association if you know of any pirate operators in your markets.