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FCC Fines Amateur Radio Licensee $25,000 for Operating Unlicensed FM Station


In an FCC Enforcement Bureau case going back to early 2015, a Paterson, New Jersey, Amateur Radio licensee has been penalized in the amount of $25,000 for allegedly continuing to operate an unlicensed FM radio station. The FCC issued a Forfeiture Order on October 30 to Winston A. Tulloch, KC2ALN, a General class licensee. The fine followed an April 2018 Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) issued to Tulloch for alleged “willful and repeated violation” of Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, by operating an unlicensed FM radio station on 90.9 MHz in Paterson. Tulloch did not respond to the NAL, the FCC indicated.

“Commission action in this area is essential because unlicensed radio stations do not broadcast Emergency Alert Service messages and therefore create a public safety hazard for their listener,” the FCC said in the Forfeiture Order. “Moreover, unlicensed radio stations create a danger of interference to licensed communications and undermine the Commission’s authority over broadcast radio operations.”

Following up on February 2015 complaints regarding pirate radio operations in Paterson, FCC agents spotted a signal on 90.9 MHz that “appeared to be an unauthorized radio station.” Agents determined the signal was emanating from a multi-family dwelling and noticed an FM antenna on the structure. The measured field strength exceeded the limits allowed for Part 15 unlicensed devices.

Through a solicitation broadcast on the station for advertisers and a vehicle parked outside the building, the FCC agents were able to determine that the telephone number in the announcement belonged to Tulloch, and the car was registered in his name. FCC agents made several visits to Paterson in late 2015 and early 2016. In October of 2016, agents returned to Paterson and determined that the signal source had relocated to another nearby multi-family structure. A Notice of Unlicensed Operation (NOUO) was posted on the door of the building and the following month, the FCC mailed an NOUO to Tulloch.

Subsequent visits revealed that the station was still in operation, and, at some point, had moved back to its prior location. Additional NOUOs were issued. Finally, on September 15, 2017, two agents returned to Paterson and determined that the station no longer was on the air.

In the Forfeiture Order, the FCC incorporated by reference the details of the investigation spelled out in the earlier NAL.

The Tulloch case is among dozens that the FCC Enforcement Bureau has initiated in the past couple of years in efforts to shut down pirate broadcasters across the US, the vast majority of which are not FCC amateur licensees.




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