Pirate radio operators continue to be a problem – particularly in major metropolitan areas. The week before last, the FCC resolved two long-pending cases against pirate operators through negotiated settlements. In one case, the FCC last year initially proposed a fine of $151,005 for the illegal operation. After examining the operator’s finances, the Bureau agreed to a $4,000 fine now, with a penalty of $75,000 should the operator violate the law again (see this decision against an operator called Radio Concorde). In the second case, the FCC had proposed a $453,015 fine last year, but agreed to take $5,000 now, with penalty of $225,000 if the operator violates the terms of the consent decree (see the decision dealing with operator Radio TeleBoston). Last year, we wrote here about the much larger fines initially proposed for these two operators.
In both cases, the FCC seemingly recognized reality in taking the small upfront payments now rather than trying to collect huge fines that likely were beyond the ability of the operators to pay. The FCC also required the surrender of the operator’s equipment and a commitment to stay away from pirate radio for 20 years or face much larger fines. The big fines initially imposed in these cases were set even before Congress enacted the PIRATE Act early this year. The new law allows for fines on illegal operators of $100,000 per day, up to a maximum total fine of $2,000,000. Even without the full effect of the PIRATE Act, these cases show the deterrent effect of these large fines. They get an illegal operator’s attention, which can lead to the shutdown of these unauthorized stations, as happened in these cases. With the pandemic, we worry about even more illegal uses of the broadcast spectrum – and we will write more about that issue here tomorrow.