Florida State Senate Begins Debate on Anti-Pirate Bill

Interesting developments on the drive to criminalize pirate radio in Florida. Amendments have been filed to the legislation pending in the state Senate that would reduce the severity of the “crime” of unlicensed broadcasting from a third-degree felony to a first-degree misdemeanor. One version failed on second reading yesterday. Another (pending) amendment would punish first-time pirates with misdemeanors and treat repeat offenders as felons.

Still no news from those whose job it is to report it, save a little blurb in the Tampa Tribune. It should be noted that this bill is not solely about pirate radio stations: it actually creates something called the “Office of Statewide Prosecution,” whose primary job will be to go after organized crime in general. The mandate to hunt pirate radio stations is tacked on – as all good special-interest favors usually are.

FCC Sweeps Florida; State Senate Set to Pass Anti-Pirate Bill

Last week was a busy one in the Sunshine State. An FM pirate was busted in a high-profile raid in Lake Worth; this one was apparently tracked down by the chopper pilot of a local TV station. Mainstream media coverage of this case is particularly sketchy; interference with an aviation frequency is involved, but the hype of what this actually means is blown way out of proportion.

Then there are the ancillary “facts”: the most comprehensive coverage (courtesy of the Palm Beach Post) says pirate radio transmitters cost “as little as $5,000” (off by a good factor of ten – on the high side) and cites the FCC as claiming to have shut down “more than 400” radio pirates in Florida since 1997. Read More

Florida Moves to Criminalize Pirate Radio; Jammers Hit Clear Channel?

SB 2714 has been introduced in the Florida State Senate. This legislation would allow state authorities loose on the hunt for pirate stations; the act itself would be treated as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Presently it is a crime in Florida to intentionally interfere with radio signals – a misdemeanor.

SB 2714 cleared the Senate’s Committee on Communication and Public Utilities last month on a 7-1 vote and awaits similar endorsement by the Criminal Justice Committee. A companion bill in the state House has already been endorsed by its Committees on Business Regulation (28-8) and Appropriations (37-5). Read More

Florida Broadcasters Prepare Next Offensive on Pirates

Last August an NPR affiliate got the Broward County Sheriff’s office to raid two unlicensed FM stations, using building code violations to gain entry.

C. Patrick Roberts, president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters, was overjoyed with the success of the local raid, which did the job the FCC failed to do.

The push is now on to formalize this tactic as law: the FAB (ha!) is now working with sympathetic state lawmakers to criminalize pirate radio in the state of Florida. ”I believe it’s better to use a Mack truck than a flyswatter,” said Roberts. Read More

Florida Broadcasters Change Tactics Against Pirates

An article in the business section of Sunday’s Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper highlights the “pirate problem” in southern Florida and features lots of quotes from irate broadcast industry-types. My favorite comes from David Ross, Clear Channel’s regional vice president for its 27 south Florida broadcast properties:

“They’re destroying the ability of listeners to hear what they choose and our ability to serve advertisers. It’s a form of squatting. They don’t pay any taxes, they’re breaking the law, they don’t need to meet any licensing requirements and they affect all of us, from the biggest to the smallest operator.” While there is a huge mass of pirate activity in Florida, making that state the most active by far, one gets the sense Ross would say the same thing in any situation where there’s “pirates.” Read More