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PIRATE Act Advances in Congress While West Texas Pirate Case Rears its Head

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday voted unanimously to approve a bipartisan measure to clamp down on pirate radio operations across the country.  HR 5709, the ‘Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act’, is co-authored by U.S. Reps. Leonard Lance, R-NJ, and Paul Tonko, D-NY.  Both are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which approved the measure a little more than a week ago on a voice vote.

Texas cosponsors of the bill, U.S. Reps. Bill Flores, R-Waco, and Gene Green, D-Houston, are also members of the committee.  The measure increases the penalties, requires regular enforcement sweeps, and augments the tools available to the FCC to stop illegal pirate broadcasters. 

As noted in TAB President Oscar Rodriguez’s May 15 story in the TAB Bulletin, the PIRATE Act could be useful in metro markets such as Dallas some of which have seen a jump in the number of pirate radio operators.

A recent FCC pirate case in the past week, however, indicate the problem is not limited to the metro areas of Texas.  The owner of the Oasis Inn Motel in Van Horn was issued an FCC warning about its unlicensed FM radio station operating in that community.

The FCC said on June 6, agents from the FCC’s Dallas Office confirmed by direction finding techniques that radio signals on frequency 98.1 MHz were emanating from a commercial property at 1201 West Broadway in Van Horn.  The commission said Brenda K. Overhulser is listed in public records as the property owner and that a search of the FCC’s records showed no license was issued for operation of a broadcast station at that location on 98.1 MHz. 

The FCC warned Overhulser that “operation of radio transmitting equipment without a valid radio station authorization constitutes a violation of the Federal laws and could subject the operator to severe penalties, including, but not limited to, substantial monetary fines, in rem arrest action against the offending radio equipment, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment.”

The commission gave Overhulser 10 days from its July 16 notice to respond “with any evidence that you have authority to operate granted by the FCC.”  There have been other West Texas cases in the past decade.  Clearly, there is no shortage of brazen individuals seeking to flaunt the FCC’s rules on unauthorized operations.

Let us know if you’re aware of a pirate radio operator in your market so we can bolster support for this bill among other Texas members of Congress.

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

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