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.
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).
Jesse Walker recently wrote a nice treatise on the anti-pirate laws in Florida and New Jersey (albeit in dubious trappings, but you can read around that). Inspired, I decided to drop a line to the two Democrat FCC commissioners, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, both of whom are supposedly somewhat accessible via e-mail. They got this:
Since 2004 the state of Florida has asserted jurisdiction over the broadcast airwaves, something the FCC has historically worked very hard to keep within its exclusive domain. Last year, the state of New Jersey followed suit. Both states have essentially criminalized the act of unlicensed broadcasting, punishable as a felony involving jail sentences and multi-thousand dollar fines.