Lawmakers in Massachusetts are hard at work trying to outlaw unlicensed broadcasting. H.1679 was introduced in the state House of Representatives in January and got a hearing in the legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary just last week. Floor votes are expected before the end of the year.
Halfway through 2013, and the FCC’s pace of unlicensed broadcast enforcement shows no real change from 2012: 106 enforcement actions in all, targeting more than three dozen stations, with the majority of this activity wholly administrative in nature. Pirate stations who appear on the FCC’s radar can now expect a warning letter to arrive via certified mail 1-6 weeks after an initial visit. Ignore those, and the agency may start asking for money.
To date, the FCC has handed out $60,000 in Notices of Apparent Liability and $125,000 in actual forfeitures. However, not all of these penalties are new: in February, the FCC socked Whisler Fleurinor with a $25,000 fine for unlicensed operation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is actually Fleurinor’s second go-round – he was first busted in 2010 and given a $20,000 forfeiture in 2011, which was later reduced to $500. It’s much the same story for Gary Feldman, who was first busted in 2004 for pirate broadcasting in Miami. He was caught again last year and fined $25,000 this year. Moreno’s 2004 forfeiture ($10,000) was never paid.
The city of Boston, Massachusetts is gearing up for a mayoral election later this year, and among the folks throwing their hat into the ring is Charles Clemons.
A former Boston police and corrections officer, Clemons may be better known as the founder of Touch 106 FM, a microradio outlet busted by the FCC in 2007-08. Clemons received a $17,000 forfeiture for unlicensed broadcasting and refusing to allow FCC agents to inspect the station.
Radio industry trades and watchdogs have played up last month’s raid and seizure of pirate station Datz Hits 99.7 FM in Boston. According to the FCC and Department of Justice, Datz Hits caused interference to a licensed commercial radio station as well as an air traffic control frequency at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
Said Enforcement Bureau Chief P. Michele Elison, “This is an important issue for licensed broadcasters and for the public in general, as both groups rely on the vigilance of the FCC to keep the airwaves free of interference. This enforcement action reflects our continued commitment to that objective.”
The story, of course, makes national news because it feeds into the industry-foisted myth that pirate radio has the potential to make airliners fall from the sky. Buried within the copy is the admission, however, that the affected channel at Boston’s Logan International Airport prevented “air traffic controllers from communicating with private aircraft, but not commercial airlines, on the frequency published to all pilots” [emphasis mine]. A follow-up story also notes that the dirty pirate station is but one of about a dozen known to broadcast regularly in the Boston metropolitan area, none of which are reported to interfere with anything.