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Radio News: FCC commissioner badgers journalists to stop pirate radio

Jan 12, 2018 10:50 pm
Matt Sebastian reports in Boulder's Daily Camera that the Colorado city is a hotbed of pirate radio, with at least five stations in the area broadcasting recently. Four of them are working together as the Colorado Community Radio Network, and a fifth recently got the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. Longmont's KROC (106.5-FM) did not get a visit from FCC enforcement officials trying to stop their illegal broadcasts. Instead, one of the five FCC commissioners -- not an enforcement officer -- sent a threatening letter to a Colorado news organization that wrote a story about the microradio station. "Pirate radio should never be romanticized or its negative impact minimized. In learning of a pirate station, the proper action should have been to alert the Federal Communications Commission’s Field Office in Denver to initiate an investigation and potentially enforcement proceedings, not suggest people listen while they can," FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly wrote to the news outlet. "The Longmont Observer generally doesn't comment on letters to the editor, however, we do find it odd, and by what we can tell, unprecedented, that an FCC commissioner would write a tiny digital-only, locally focused news outlet in Longmont, Colo., and tell us what story we should write, and how to write it," Sergio R. Angeles, president and co-founder of the nonprofit Longmont Observer, wrote in an editor's note appended to the Jan. 3 letter from O'Rielly. "It is absolutely unprecedented for an FCC commissioner to attempt to badger journalists for simply doing their jobs," John Anderson, director of the Journalism and Media Studies program in the Department of TV & Radio at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and a member of Wave Farm's board, wrote on his DIYmedia.net blog, where he tracks pirate radio enforcement actions. Why is an FCC commissioner sending letters to news organizations rather than enforcement officers? Congress has dramatically reduced the FCC budget, and the FCC has reduced the number of its field offices. FCC Enforcement Bureau chief Rosemary Harold told Inside Radio that “less than 50 people” are working pirate radio cases across the country out of 13 field offices. But, Anderson reports, FCC enforcement actions were up in 2017. "There were 383 enforcement-actions across 18 states, compared to 207 actions in 2016 covering just nine states," he writes. Many of those actions were multiple warning letters sent to pirates and their landlords.
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