FCC Recaps PIRATE Act Enforcement’s Banner Year To Congress


After a year of record-setting fines and coast-to-coast hunts, the Federal Communications Commission has submitted its annual report under the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement, or PIRATE, Act to US Congress.

As an update, the maximum monetary penalty under the act has been adjusted for inflation in 2024 by around $75,000 to $2,391,097.

The pirate radio station database, launched on the FCC’s website in January 2023, has been regularly updated with all publicly released activity through the end of the year. The FCC’s efforts in hiring and equipment purchasing are ongoing, with six vehicles ordered to support the staff hired under the PIRATE Act. These vehicles, to be outfitted in 2024 and 2025, will include specialized hardware and software for detecting pirate radio operators.

In 2023, the FCC announced its first proposed fines under the PIRATE Act against three operators, including the previous maximum penalty of $2,316,034 for César Ayora and Luis Angel Ayora in Queens, NY, and an $80,000 fine against Thomas Barnes in La Grande, Oregon. The FCC issued 44 notices in total to property owners and managers regarding pirate broadcasts from their properties.

The PIRATE Act, enacted on January 24, 2020, was designed to amplify the FCC’s enforcement capabilities against unlicensed radio operations. The act expanded the Enforcement Bureau’s jurisdiction to property owners and managers who knowingly allow pirate radio stations on their premises.

In September, the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee raised the FCC’s fiscal year budget by 5.3%, amounting to an additional $20.5 million over the past budget of $390 million. Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel used the increase to reinforce PIRATE Act enforcement with an additional $5 million.

The FCC’s enforcement plan under the PIRATE Act focuses on concentrated sweeps, actions against pirate radio operators, and targeting landlords and property owners facilitating these operations. The plan also includes developing a public-facing database of pirate stations and enhancing the Commission’s capacity with additional staff and equipment.


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