President Donald Trump has signed into law legislation that will dramatically increase the fines that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can levy against operators of unlicensed radio stations.
Signed by Trump on January 24, the “Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement” (“PIRATE”) Act increases the maximum fines that can be levied by the FCC against pirate radio operators from $144,344 to $2 million. The law will also enable the FCC to pursue parties that provide direct or indirect support for unlicensed radio activities, such as property landlords, as well as those who provide financial assistance, such as advertisers.
The PIRATE Act also streamlines the Commission’s process for pursuing illegal operators. Rather than being required to issue a Notice of Unlicensed Operations before taking further action, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau is now able to directly issue a Notice of Apparent Liability and stipulate a proposed fine in connection with the violation.
Under the new law, pirate radio broadcasting is defined as transmitting within the AM and FM bands without an FCC license, but excludes unlicensed operations that comply with the requirements of Part 15.
The legislation underlying the PIRATE Act was originally introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.
“The PIRATE Act provides the FCC with additional tools to combat pirate radio,” noted FCC Chair Ajit Pai. “I also applaud Congress for working in a bipartisan manner to fight back against illegal broadcasting.”