The FCC yesterday issued Notices of Apparent Liability to two pirate radio operators that totaled over $600,000, the largest fines ever issued for those operating radio stations without an FCC-issued license. Both operated in the Boston area. One was fined $151,005 for operating one station (press release here, the full Notice of Apparent Liability is available here). The second was fined $453,015 for operating three transmitters in the area (press release here, the full NAL is available here). The FCC noted that these were the maximum fines that they could impose for these violations under current law, and that the fines were the result of several years of investigations and warnings to the operators.
Commissioner O’Rielly, in a separate statement, noted that he wished that the FCC had the authority to impose even higher fines and to proceed more quickly against these operators than allowed under current FCC procedures. The Commissioner noted that he would be working with Congress to try to get legislation passed to speed the process and raise the penalties against pirate operators. We wrote about one of those legislative proposals here that would impose fines of $100,000 a day up to $2 million against these pirates and speed the process necessary to impose these fines. The legislation would also allow fines directly against landowners and others enabling the operations of these stations.
I have been asked what good these huge fines would do as most pirate radio operators will never be able to pay them. As noted by Commissioner O’Rielly, bigger fines would potentially get the attention of the Department of Justice to actually sue to collect these fines, as the FCC itself cannot enforce the fines that it imposes, and DOJ sometimes is reluctant to pursue violators, especially where relatively small sums of money are due. Even if higher fines are not authorized by Congress, these two actions should get the attention both of the DOJ and of illegal operators and hopefully make some of those operators think twice about starting pirate radio station