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FCC Warns Landowners of PIRATE Act Financial Hammer

Since the 2020 passage of the federal PIRATE Act, broadcasters have waited to see what the FCC would do with new enforcement tools in its effort to curtail pirate broadcast operators.

It looks like the licensed, law-abiding broadcast community got its answer last week. 

The FCC published four letters sent to property owners in Florida, Maryland, Oregon, and Pennsylvania warning them of up to a $2 million liability if pirate radio operator transmissions emanating from their land did not cease within a 10-business day period.

A key provision of the PIRATE Act allows the commission to assess penalties against landowners who allow pirate broadcast operations on their property, not just against the pirates themselves.

The FCC can fine pirate operators up to $100,000 a day and up to $2 million in total.

The act authorized fines not only on pirate broadcasters “but also on anyone who ‘knowingly does or causes or suffers to be done any pirate radio broadcasting,’” said attorney David Oxenford with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer. 

“As operators may be hard to identify, the ability to seek penalties against landlords, who are readily identifiable from local land records, gives the FCC a much stronger tool with which to combat pirate radio operators.” 

Oxenford covered these FCC actions in more detail in his Broadcast Law Blog, here.

This appears to be the initial use of the Act in this manner.

TAB applauds the FCC’s crackdown on pirate broadcasters and those who enable their efforts. 

Citizens and licensed broadcasters may call the FCC’s Dallas field office at 214-575-6361 with pirate operator complaints.

The Dallas field office has authority in Texas broadcast pirate cases.

Basic information is the best to provide such as operating frequency, location, and hours of operation.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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