Radio News: FCC threatening $2 million fines to real estate owners for pirate transmissions
Radio Insight reports that since President Donald Trump signed the 2020 PIRATE Act, the Federal Communications Commission's Enforcement Bureau has begun to send warning letters not just to folks they believe are operating pirate radio stations, but also to the owners of the properties the FCC believes are hosting the broadcasts. Four real estate owners getting the letters now have ten days to respond to the FCC that they are addressing the issue. Edwin and Joyce Pitt of Baltimore, MD; Maria V. Hernandez of Kissimmee, FL; Richard Manson of Philadelphia, PA; and Kent and Deanna Coppinger of the Jefferson RV Park in Summerville, OR got the letters that read, in part, “You are hereby notified and warned that the FCC may issue a fine of up to $2,000,000 if ... we determine that you have continued to permit any individual or entity to engage in pirate radio broadcasting the property that you own or manage." The new law Trump signed includes draconian $2 million fines for pirate radio operators, or property owners. It was co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko, who represents Albany County and much of the Capitol District, where there has not been any pirate radio activity reported in many years. While there has not been any local pirate radio activity to get Tonko's attention, he did receive $7,000 in donations during the 2016 campaign from the National Association of Broadcasters, a virulent anti-pirate radio organization. But Inside Radio reports that the new law so far is toothless. The COVID-19 pandemic limited field work by FCC agents, and the FCC says it does not have the manpower to fully implement all of the 2020 PIRATE Act's mandates. And they also say they don't have the money to hire new agents. "President Biden’s proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 would increase the FCC’s budget by 4.3 percent in the coming year.... Under the Biden proposal, the Enforcement Bureau would receive an increase of $5 million to implement the new law and to hire the 15 new employees," Inside Radio reports. David Goren, a pirate radio expert who runs pirateradiomap.com, says that the FCC's new giant fines may be working, or pirates may be changing channels and locations. Goren told Columbia Journalism Review last year that, "Recently the FCC sent notices to three stations in Queens, to landlords. There is a station in Queens that I’m able to hear in Brooklyn, probably six miles away, this Ecuadorean station. They were on the air when the notices came out, and they were on the air for several days after, but now they’re no longer on that frequency, so they may have felt some pressure to shut down and move."