The New York state legislature is considering a bill to make unlicensed broadcasting a class D felony, punishable with possible (undefined) imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. The bill would call foul on any broadcaster without an FCC license and/or accused of causing interference to another radio station.
Those state laws have been on the books for at least five years – and the result? Nothing.
The impetus for this legislation is purely political. Licensed broadcasters have ignored the changing demography of New York; also, the state has a $10 billion budget hole to fill. This maneuver won’t put a dent in the number of stations on the air nor fill New York’s coffers.
Most pirate broadcasters today serve audiences that are wholly absent from the milieu of licensed radio, and the current regulatory system simply can’t make new stations possible in places like the City. This is, of course, where most unlicensed broadcasters are concentrated.
Neither individual states nor the FCC have the wherewithal to silence the vibrancy of modern microradio. That the New York State Broadcasters Association is pulling strings on lawmakers in Albany about the issue only serves to highlight the disconnect between the public and the public interest as represented by contemporary radio regulation.