Yesterday, the FCC adopted a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing to fine three individuals $144,344 for operating a pirate radio station in North Miami, Florida. One individual is alleged to have programed and operated the station while the other two are a husband and wife who owned the property from which the station transmitted. The NAL details the failure of the individuals to cease operations on a permanent basis, even after the operator had been fined for prior operation of an unauthorized radio station, the operator and property owners had received numerous official notices of the illegal activity, and even after repeated visits from government officials notifying the landowners of the illegal operation and once seizing the unauthorized equipment. The FCC also suggests that, on a visit last year, the landowners may have hidden the broadcast equipment when authorities came to their house for an inspection when an unauthorized transmission was detected, the landowners did not answer the knock at their door for about 20 minutes, and when they finally came to the door, the station was no longer operating and the transmitter was gone from the backyard shack that appeared to have housed it. Given the fact that the illegal operation was repeated, and done after prior enforcement actions, the FCC deemed that the parties knew what they were doing was illegal, and thus imposed the maximum fine allowed by the Communications Act for a continuing violation of FCC rules.
This appears to be the highest fine ever issued by the FCC for pirate radio operations, and it may also be the first time that the FCC fined not only the operator of the station but also the landowner from whose property the station operated. We wrote about the FCC’s recent crackdown on pirate radio here. This decision is yet more evidence that the FCC is serious about its primary mission of policing the airwaves to make sure that they are being used as intended. The crackdown is real – pirates beware!