The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has begun targeting property owners that knowingly tolerate pirate radio operators on their properties. The Commission was given new authority under the PIRATE Act. Property owners allowing pirates to broadcast are now liable for fines of up to $2 million.
“Pirate radio is illegal and can interfere with not only legitimate broadcast stations’ business activities but also those stations’ ability to inform the public about emergency information,” said Rosemary Harold, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. “It is unacceptable – and plainly illegal under the new law – for landlords and property managers to simply opt to ignore pirate radio operations. Once they are aware of these unauthorized broadcasts, they must take steps to stop it from continuing in their buildings or at other sites they own or control. If they do not do so, they risk receiving a heavy fine, followed by collection action in court if they do not pay it. In addition, our enforcement actions will be made public, which may create further unforeseen business risks.”
Under the new authority, the Enforcement Bureau will provide written notice to property owners and managers the agency has reason to believe are turning a blind eye to – or even helping facilitate – illegal broadcasting. These new Notices of Illegal Pirate Radio Broadcasting also will afford parties a period of time to remedy the problem before any enforcement action moves forward. In the first such notices, issued today to property owners regarding their buildings in New York City, the respective parties were given 10 days to respond. The Bureau will consider any response before taking further action.
Commission investigations have found that landlords and property managers too often are aware of this illegal activity taking place on their premises. The Commission has previously sent warnings to landlords and even sought cooperation from national property owners’ organizations in raising awareness. With pirate broadcasts persisting despite these efforts, Congress took action and empowered the Commission to penalize property owners and managers that knowingly permit pirate broadcasters to remain operating from the landlord’s buildings or unbuilt areas. Landlords and property managers also may be found liable if a pirate station ceases operation for some period of time but later resumes at the same site.