Record number of New York City pirate radio stations contacted by the FCC

Mar 08, 2008 8:15 pm
From New York Radio Guide:
Following the December 23 New York Times article on pirate radio broadcasters in Brooklyn, the FCC's New York field office has been spending a great deal of time visiting Brooklyn neighborhoods, tracking down illegal broadcasters and issuing more than a dozen "Notices of Unlicensed Operation" (10 day notices). Some of the broadcasters identified include a pirate on 88.5-FM broadcasting from central Brooklyn, a pirate [Frito Destra] on 90.9-FM broadcasting from Flatbush, [Jean Cleophat] a pirate on 88.1-FM broadcasting from central Brooklyn, and a pirate on 91.9-FM broadcasting from south of Williamsburg. The FCC also sent a Forfeiture Notice to Trevor Whitely for broadcasting on 102.3-FM from the Eastern Parkway area. as "102.3 Red Hot FM." Listeners in Brooklyn have noticed somewhat clearer signals for a number of stations, but at least 20 unlicensed stations remain on the air.

That story barely touches the recent enforcement action in New York City, which seems to be at some sort of historic level. Judging from the location and the name Moshe Ezagui on the FCC's "Notice of Unlicensed Operation," the 91.9-FM station was the long-time Hasidic station that was sort-of day-parting with the 10 a.m.-midnight hip hop station that uses that frequency. The landlords of the Hasidic station's location also got a "Notice of Unlicensed Operation."

The report above also missed the Feb. 8 Notice of Unlicensed Operation to Clement Viau/Biau allegedly operating on 90.1-FM also near Flatbush, Brooklyn. And it neglects to mention Esther King or Ambassador Courts Associates who both got a Notice of Unlicensed Operation for operating at 102.5-FM in Brooklyn. Pietro Russo also got a Notice of Unlicensed Operation for operating at 90.9-FM in Brooklyn. And there's also Newkirk Realty, LLC, south of Park Slope, Brooklyn, operating on 88.1, with a Jan. 31 "Notice of Unlicensed Operation." They also missed another "Notice of Unlicensed Operation" to operators on 88.5-FM in Brooklyn, Nachla Associates, LLC in central Brooklyn and Felix Leonard, Aries Communications, in Brooklyn. Clearly, the FCC is also contacting landlords as well as suspected pirates these days.

So that is 12-15 stations, depending how you count them, receiving notices so far in 2008. By any measure that is a record number of pirate radio busts in New York City.

The premise of the New York Radio Guide story, that the Dec. 23 story in The New York Times started this all, is also wrong. Three days before the story, the FCC also took action against a slew of New York pirates. Notices announced on Dec. 20, 2007 include Randel and Shawnett Palmer, no location given, at 95.9-FM; Moshe Realty LLC, Brooklyn, 102.3-FM; Latesha Johnson, Brooklyn, 107.9; Anthony Goolchalan and American Heritage Management Corporation, Brooklyn, 95.1; and AG 815 LLC, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, 107.9. So clearly, the action started before the Times story.

The FCC also posted a "Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture" to Joaquim Barbosa, Amateur Extra Class licensee, call sign N2KBJ, of Elizabeth, NJ. FCC officials observed him operating on 296.550 MHz, a government operations channel. The Notice says Barbosa admitted he knew he was on a government channel. The FCC also sent a "Notice of Unlicensed Operation" to a Bedstar Associates, Inc., a business operating 463.375 MHz. They also posted a Citations to Job Lot Wholesale & Retail Stores #4, 32-29 Beach Channel Drive, Far Rockaway, Brooklyn; C.H. Martin, Inc., 148-22 Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica: and Joy Electronics & Appliances, 156-16A Northern Blvd, Flushing, for selling analog televisions to consumers without warning them of the imminent switch to digital transmission.

Add it all up, and that's about 20 FCC enforcement actions against pirates in the last 80 days in New York City, a pace of one every four days. But at least one rabid anti-pirate crusader, posting on the New York Radio Message Board, says, "All those notices were sent out in early February and everyone of those frequencies still is occupied by the same pirates."

The New York Radio Guide story also does not get to the "why" of the story, which in this case seems to be that minority communities find the need for low-power broadcasting in New York City so great, that they are willing to break the law. Tom Roe and Dharma Dailey of free103point9 met with the FCC last week, within a larger group organized by the Prometheus Radio Project about low-power FM. The FCC's Peter Doyle said in that meeting that if the current LPFM bill passes Congress, a new station might be available in Brooklyn Heights. This is the first time there's been any hint of the possibility of LPFM being an option In New York City. A better plan: find the couple of frequencies that do have some space in the city (the pirates have proved there are a couple of holes, though clearly some are on top of licensed stations' signals), and spread very-low power 10-watt stations in each neighborhood in the five boroughs.
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