Pirate-Hunting: FCC Plods While Local Scenes Bubble

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. Read More

Clear Channel: Give Us More Translators Before Expanding LPFM

Kudos to Matthew Lasar for unearthing an ex parte gem from the FCC files. Clear Channel’s top engineering executive and chief lobbyist had a sit-down with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai earlier this month in which they covered a wide range of issues related to the state of AM broadcasting. Pai is pushing for an "AM Revitalization Initiative" at the FCC, which would consider several ideas related to finding sustainability for the nation’s oldest broadcast band. Read More

Broadcasters Get Wake-Up Call on Cybersecurity

On Monday, viewers of two television stations in Montana were treated to an Emergency Alert System prank. During a daytime schlock talk show, the EAS system went off at the stations and a message was heard that "the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living." The zombie apocalypse warning prompted a handful of quizzical calls to public safety officials, but no mass panic.

Today, we learned that this EAS hack was not a localized event. Public and commercial television stations in Michigan apparently broadcast the same warning; Radio World reported that other television and radio stations around the country also discovered the message in their EAS systems and some were able to prevent it from airing. Read More

FCC Grossly Overstates Anti-Pirate Activity

A paragraph in the FCC’s annual performance report for fiscal year 2012 suggests the agency is on the warpath against unlicensed broadcasters:

The FCC shut down hundreds of pirate broadcast operations, which threaten the integrity of the nation’s communications infrastructure and caused interference to licensed broadcasters, air traffic control frequencies, and other public safety communications. There were $289,000 in penalties and 583 warnings issued during FY 2012.

Specious claims of the pirate threat aside, these numbers were quickly parroted by the Clear Channel-owned trade publication Inside Radio as evidence of a "pirate crackdown confirmed." But there’s no data to back up these claims. Read More

When the Internet Takes Over Radio Stations

This week, radio industry muckraker Jerry Del Colliano published a blog post announcing his acquisition of a "secret memo" from Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman to executive staff. The details of the memo itself are hidden behind Del Colliano’s blog paywall, but the preview is worth a gander.

Reportedly, the memo is entitled "Expanding iHeartRadio onto the Terrestrial Platform" and outlines exactly how the broadcast conglomerate plans to do this. It is unclear from the preview just what the plans are, but it definitely signals that Clear Channel aims to use its iHeartRadio streaming platform as a primary content provider to some (if not most or all) of the company’s radio stations. The Pittman plan also reportedly suggests that iHeartRadio will become the company’s "main source of revenue" in the process. Read More