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Author Topic: FCC Says Its Pirate Enforcement Is Picking Up, Including New Hires And Equipment  (Read 347 times)

Offline skeezix

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Jan 26, 2023

The Federal Communications Commission says its battle against pirate radio returned to more normalcy as the agency’s pandemic response became less restrictive and it had more flexibility to return to undertaking more investigations. The result is the Enforcement Bureau took 38 actions against alleged operators of unlicensed stations, including issuing 21 notices during 2022 to property owners where those stations were broadcasting from.

“Because pirate radio stations often cease operating for a period of time but then return, the Bureau will continue to monitor the properties for which notices were provided and will initiate enforcement action where appropriate,” the FCC says in an annual report about its progress in combatting pirates. The annual report is now required under the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act or PIRATE Act, which was signed into law by President Trump in January 2020.

If the number of enforcement actions seems small, the FCC explains that ever since the new law took effect field agents have been hampered by not only the pandemic but also a “lack of funding” to implement many of the requirements in the law. It is a similar complaint the FCC shared with lawmakers when it issued its previous report a year ago.

The PIRATE Act raised the potential maximum fine for those found guilty of operating or supporting an unlicensed station to $100,000 for a single act of violation, up to a $2 million maximum. It also gave the FCC additional enforcement authority over property owners and managers that permit pirate radio stations to operate from their property.

Under the new law, the FCC was required to build a database of pirate radio stations. This week the Enforcement Bureau released its first version of the database, covering all of the agency’s interactions with alleged pirates last year. It shows nearly half of the pirate enforcement actions were in New York, where there were 18 investigations last year. Pennsylvania accounted for 16% of the investigations, while Maryland is where another 11% of cases were focused.

Pirate Sweeps Begin

The PIRATE Act also required the Commission to conduct annual enforcement “sweeps” in five cities where pirate radio is the biggest problem at least once a year. And then, within six months, field agents are mandated to return to those markets to conduct “monitoring sweeps” to determine whether the unlicensed operators simply powered back up or changed frequencies.

Those sweeps were slow to begin – not because of the pandemic, but because Congress failed to provide additional funding to the FCC to conduct them and the agency opted not to shift existing resources to pay for the staff needed to meet the requirement. But that should change this year since the Biden administration included funding for the pirate enforcement as part of the FCC’s current $390 million budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. 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. To date, the FCC has posted six full-time positions – five field agents and one field counsel – and it says it has additional hires planned toward the end of the fiscal year.

Even without the additional staff, the FCC report says its staff reviewed pirate radio complaints in order to identify the current top five markets with the most pirate radio operations. “The Commission developed a plan for pirate sweeps, which was initiated in the fourth quarter of 2022,” it says, offering no further details.

The annual report to Congress also says that more money is being spent on FCC equipment to hunt down pirate stations. That includes developing new mobile direction-finding vehicles to help field agents trace a pirate station back to its home base. The FCC says it also is prepared to purchase six vehicles to support the additional staff that will be hired. That process has been delayed, however, until a government purchase window opens. In the meantime, the FCC says it will continue to use older, existing vehicles in its fleet that were scheduled to be taken out of service. It has also begun to purchase and develop investigative tools that will be integrated into the new direction-finding vehicles after they are purchased.
Minneapolis, MN

Offline Ct Yankee

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Definition of what a Pirate is considered under the PIRATE Act:

CASTING .—In this section, the term ‘pirate radio broad-
casting’ means the transmission of communications on
spectrum frequencies between 535 and 1705 kilohertz, in-
clusive, or 87.7 and 108 megahertz, inclusive, without a
license issued by the Commission, but does not include un-
licensed operations in compliance with part 15 of title 47,
Code of Federal Regulations.’’.

The acronym PIRATE stands for "Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement", which begs the question what is legal Radio Abuse?
Perhaps they should have tried "Preventing Illegal Radio Activity Through Enforcement".  Maybe I should market a business of snappy names for snarky laws.  ;)
« Last Edit: January 26, 2023, 2037 UTC by Ct Yankee »
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Offline ChrisSmolinski

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The acronym PIRATE stands for "Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement", which begs the question what is legal Radio Abuse?

Commercial top 40 radio
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
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Offline Molvania Poacher

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This may have already been posted elsewhere, but here is a new database the FCC has made available, as part of these renewed efforts:

All reception direct.
QTH New Hampshire (70 miles north of Boston).
Tecsun S-8800 and Kenwood R-2000, with MFJ-16010 tuner and about 135 feet of wire thrown up in the trees.
eQSLs most appreciated to molvaniapoacher@gmail.com.


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