First it was Florida…now the New Jersey Broadcasters’ Association is pushing a bill through the state legislature that would make unlicensed broadcasting in the state a fourth-degree felony. Whereas conviction in Florida could cost you $5k and/or five years behind bars, New Jersey’s proposed law hits pirates for $10,000 and up to 18 months in jail.
First the enforcement tidbits. Global Radio, the company which operated several unlicensed FM transmitters at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium during the 2003 Super Bowl, has had its $12,000 fine reduced to $10,800. Global was caught broadcasting on six frequencies during the game when it only had authorization to use two (although the FCC initially prosecuted it for running three of the four pirate stations).
The company angled for a cancellation of its fine based on a couple of interesting arguments. The first was that Global went pirate on extra channels “to experiment with the boundaries of Part 15” broadcasting. This makes little sense as FCC staff on hand for the game collected ample evidence that the unlicensed transmitters were indeed way over Part 15 power levels (which couldn’t have covered the entire stadium). The second argument was more traditional: a $12,000 fine would put the company in serious financial straits. Unfortunately, Global neglected to provide the requisite three years of tax returns to back up a claim of inability to pay the penalty.
In the last week or so two more pirate stations in New Jersey and Illinois have been silenced. These are unusual cases. According to the Associated Press the NJ station, “El Sol 95.3,” was raided on Wednesday. It was run “by a group calling itself the Moors. The group has claimed U.S. laws do not apply to it because its members are indigenous Americans who have lived on the continent since the beginning of time….A man who answered the door said the station was authorized under the ‘Great Seal’ and offered a homemade document signed by ‘Queen Ali.'”