The FCC yesterday announced its first proposed fines under the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act (PIRATE Act) against three pirate radio operators.
The agency issued the maximum penalty allowable, $2,316,034, against César Ayora and Luis Angel Ayora for pirate radio broadcasting in Queens, New York.
However, the Commission most likely realizes that the fine is more of a warning shot across the bow to current and future pirate broadcasters, and property owners since they’re still trying to collect a $20,000 forfeiture order against Luis Angel Ayora that the Enforcement Bureau issued for pirate radio abuse in 2015 after a two-year investigation.
Ayora relocated Radio Impacto 2, founded in 2008, to multiple locations, and in 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service, assisted by a multi-agency team comprised of FCC Field Agents, FCC Field Counsel, and members of the NY/NJ Fugitive Task Force, executed a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York and seized the equipment that the Ayoras used to operate Radio Impacto 2 from its studio located in Elmhurst, NY.
However, Ayora and his brother, possibly emboldened by the FCC’s inability to collect its fine and knowing that the pirate radio offense isn’t punishable by a jail term, relocated to Queens, NY, with station 91.9 FM, transitioning to 105.5 FM where the station’s website stated that the Ecuadorian FM station “never sleeps, because a team of communication professionals are working for you 24 hours a day…”.
“Some of the most egregious pirate radio operations are run by individuals who have ignored prior enforcement actions by the Commission. This is one such case. As such, it merits the strongest possible enforcement measures to the fullest extent of the law,” this FCC said in its Notice of Apparent Liability.
The FCC did not identify if they had seized 105.5 FM’s broadcast equipment, including its non-compliant antenna.
Second pirate trailer park pirate broadcaster hit with an $80K fine
The Commission proposed an $80,000 forfeiture against Thomas Barnes for operating a pirate radio station known as “Pirate Radio Eastern Oregon” out of a trailer park property in La Grande, Oregon.
Barnes received multiple warnings notifying him that operating a pirate radio station violates the Communications Act, but nonetheless, the agency said he continued to engage in unauthorized radio broadcasting.
“However, Barnes ceased operation on or before April 15, 2022, after the Bureau notified his landlord of the landlord’s potential liability under the PIRATE Act if pirate radio operations were to continue on the property,” the FCC said a statement.
The proposed actions, both formally called a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, or NAL, serve to advise the parties on how they have violated the law and set forth proposed monetary penalties.
Pirate radio broadcasting is the unauthorized transmission of radio frequency signals on the frequencies in or adjacent to the FM and AM radio bands. Pirate radio results in a number of harms, including causing harmful interference to licensed radio stations which transmit public safety emergency alert messages. Operating an unauthorized or pirate, radio station is illegal under the Communications Act of 1934. To enhance enforcement capabilities, Congress enacted the PIRATE Act in January 2020.
The PIRATE Act provides the FCC with additional enforcement authority, including higher penalties against pirate radio broadcasters of up to $100,000 per day with a maximum of $2 million (now $115,802 and $2,316,034, respectively, adjusted for inflation). In addition to stricter fines on violators, the law requires the FCC to conduct periodic enforcement sweeps and grants the Commission authority to take enforcement action against landlords and property owners that willfully and knowingly permit pirate radio broadcasting on their properties.