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PIRATE Act Awaits President Trump’s Signature

Federal legislation that gives teeth to the FCC’s efforts to shut down pirate radio operators has cleared Congress and awaits action by President Donald J. Trump.

TAB pressed for passage of the PIRATE Act (Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement), which increases the fines the FCC may impose on pirate radio operators and gives the FCC other tools to use in enforcement efforts.

Under current law, fines for pirate radio operators are limited to a basic fine of around $10,000 per violation.

Advocates for the PIRATE Act say that simply is not enough to be a deterrent.

Under the new law, unlicensed stations could be sanctioned up to $100,000 per day, per violation, up to a maximum of $2 million.

The bill also authorizes the FCC to pursue action against facilitators of pirate operations such as anyone “who willfully and knowingly does or causes or suffers to be done any pirate radio broadcasting.”

David Oxenford, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer, says that “would seemingly allow the FCC to go after not just the operators themselves, but also those who ‘suffer to be done’ any pirate radio operation, which could possibly implicate landlords who knowingly allow pirate radio operations on their premises.”

Such a provision, Oxenford said, would be consistent with some recent FCC cases.

Besides a wider enforcement scope and increased fines, another provision requires the FCC to make more regular enforcement sweeps against pirate radio operators.

As noted in in a previous TAB Bulletin story by TAB President Oscar Rodriguez, 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.

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The bipartisan, reconciled measure, was passed in the U.S. House as H.R. 583 by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-NY, and was cosponsored by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Waco.

It passed the U.S. Senate as S. 1228 by Sen. Steve Daines, R-MT.  

Oxenford has written extensively about the PIRATE Act as it has moved through Congress.

You can read his most recent summary of the new law and its implications here

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

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