The FCC recently took action against two separate Boston-area pirate radio operators by proposing fines totaling over $600,000 on the same day. One of these fines came to $453,015, representing the largest fine ever proposed by the FCC against a pirate radio operation.
Under the chairmanship of Ajit Pai, and with outsized support from fellow Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, the FCC has committed significant time and resources to combat the scourge of illegal "pirate radio" operations. These unlicensed radio operators do not adhere to the numerous regulatory obligations imposed on authorized radio stations and do not pay regulatory fees. Unauthorized radio operations also pose safety risks, as they do not participate in the Emergency Alert System, and unauthorized transmissions can interfere with licensed operations vital to public safety, such as those used by first responders and air traffic control.
According to the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture ("NAL") issued by the FCC, the radio operator targeted with the $453,015 proposed fine had been simulcasting a radio signal over three unauthorized transmitters on two different FM frequencies. As a result of this expansive operation, the FCC received interference complaints from across the Boston metropolitan area. Through these complaints, the FCC was able to identify the illegal operator and track down his antennas, which were broadcasting at power levels that "far exceeded" allowable levels for unlicensed operation. Despite multiple written notices demanding the operator cease his illegal transmissions, the station operator continued his behavior, resulting in the record-breaking fine.
The target of the second proposed fine had also been repeatedly warned by the FCC to discontinue his broadcasts. The FCC first got wind of the illegal broadcasts when it received a complaint from a local broadcaster alleging that the pirate operation was interfering with its signal. According to local news sources, the unlicensed station has been in operation for nearly three decades.
Each operator was issued an NAL and must either pay the full fine or file a written statement with the FCC providing a basis for reduction or cancellation of the proposed fine amount.
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