The FCC yesterday made public four letters to landowners warning them that there were unlicensed FM radio operations coming from their properties and warning that, if the transmissions continued past the 10-business day response period, the landowners could be held liable for penalties up to $2,000,000 for the unlicensed operations coming from their properties. The letters were sent to landowners in Summerville, Oregon; Baltimore, Maryland; Kissimmee, Florida; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
These actions follow the 2020 enactment of the federal PIRATE Act which increased potential fines on operators of unlicensed radio stations to up to $100,000 per day, and up to $2,000,000 in the aggregate. The act authorized fines not only on pirate radio operators themselves, but also on anyone who “knowingly does or causes or suffers to be done any pirate radio broadcasting,” which seemingly authorizes the types of fines threatened in yesterday’s notices directed to the landowners where pirate radio stations operate. As operators may be hard to identify, the ability to seek penalties against landlords, who are readily identifiable from local land records, gives the FCC a much stronger tool with which to combat pirate radio operators. We last wrote about FCC actions against pirate radio in connection with settlements with operators in mid-2020, so these actions may signal that the FCC is again looking to enforce the prohibitions against unlicensed operations.