The “War on Pirates” in 2008: Paper Beats Rock, Scissors

I’ve just finished updating the Enforcement Action Database. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has reported its field actions through mid-December, and as you can see, given any activity over the balance of the month, it is on target to meet and/or (most likely) beat the record enforcement year of 2007.

eadbyyearWhat does this mean? It depends on how you look at the data. Sure, the FCC’s busting more pirates than ever, but does that really mean it’s making a dent in station proliferation? A couple of major conclusions from the year-in-review are striking: Read More

FCC Enforcement On Record Pace, Again

A long-overdue update to the Enforcement Action Database reveals that the FCC’s conducted more than 130 enforcement actions against pirate stations this year – nearly apace for all of 2005, when the FCC first began taking an administratively tougher stance on unlicensed broadcasting in a post-LPFM world. If this rate of activity stays constant the year could very well end on the north side of 400 enforcement actions.

eadbyactionI call the FCC’s posture on pirate radio “administratively tougher” because, as the raw data shows, the agency has a hard time escalating its enforcement protocol. The duration between initial site-visit and follow-up warning letter is now in the 10-day range. Sometimes the period between a warning letter and fine can be as short as a month. Read More

Enforcement Action Database Cracks 1,000 Actions

Just caught up on the FCC’s last two months of activity. It’s been a busy winter: 274 enforcement actions for 2006 and counting.

This includes fines, or threats of fines, of $10,000 against the transmitter-hosts of both microstations in San Diego, though escalating the enforcement process up to that level of severity remains mostly outside the FCC’s standard protocol (in related news, the agency’s Inspector General is planning an audit of its regulatory fee-collection process, something not done since 1999). Read More

Enforcement Action Database Revamp

Sparked by an interview done for this story, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks conducting a much-needed audit of the Enforcement Action Database. The biggest changes involved harmonizing the counting methodology from year-to-year, and correcting scattered counting errors collected over a decade of compilation.

However, the revised figures show no significant change in the trends of late: more administrative penalties, less overall muscle, and the proliferation of stations continues. I will be the first to admit to sucking at math. Read More

Notes on the Enforcement Action Database

I’ve written a long-overdue overview of the Enforcement Action Database. It’s a pretty simple explanation of what the numbers mean (which isn’t much, really) and how they are collected and compiled. 2006 marks the tenth year of data collection, and yet the information remains so sketchy that the big picture is still pretty much inconclusive.

2005 was a record-setting year in terms of the raw number of enforcement actions, but that’s partially because the FCC’s become somewhat more transparent about its activity and now routinely makes the issuance of warning letters public (in hopes of having a deterrent effect). Additionally, field agents tend to be making multiple visits to stations before escalating the enforcement protocol. Read More