Acting on a unanimous voice vote, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that would dramatically increase the fines that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can levy against operators of unlicensed radio stations.
Sponsored by Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ), the bill, entitled the Preventing Illegal Use of Radio Through Enforcement Act (PIRATE) (H.R. 5709), would increase the maximum fines allowable under law from $144,344 to $2 million. The bill would also enable the FCC to pursue parties that provide direct or indirect support for unlicensed radio activities, including landlords but also those who provide financial assistance such as advertisers.
The PIRATE Act would also streamline the Commission’s process for pursuing illegal operators. Rather than being required to issue a Notice of Unlicensed Operations before taking further action, the Enforcement Bureau would be able to directly issue a Notice of Apparent Liability and stipulate a proposed fine in connection with the violation.
With House approval in hand, efforts to implement the provisions of the PIRATE Act now turn to the U.S. Senate, where efforts are underway to introduce comparable legislation.