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President Signs PIRATE Act to Combat Illegal Broadcasting

02/04/2020

On January 24, President Donald Trump signed into law the “Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act” or the “PIRATE Act.” The measure, which amends the Communications Act of 1934, authorizes enhanced penalties for violators. Under the new law, pirate radio broadcasters would be subject to a fine of not more than $2 million, and violators could be fined up to $100,000 for each day during which an offense occurs. The new law stipulates that the FCC “shall not decrease or diminish the regular enforcement efforts targeted to pirate radio broadcast stations for other times of the year.”

The FCC is to submit to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation a report summarizing the implementation of this section and associated enforcement activities for the previous fiscal year. The new law also requires “annual sweeps,” during which FCC personnel will be assigned to “focus specific and sustained attention on the elimination of pirate radio broadcasting within the top five radio markets identified as prevalent for such broadcasts.” The Commission also “shall conduct monitoring sweeps to ascertain whether the pirate radio broadcasting identified by enforcement sweeps is continuing and whether additional pirate radio broadcasting is occurring.”

Under the new law, the FCC, in pirate broadcasting cases, will change its rules so that it proceeds directly to issuance of a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) without first issuing a Notice of Unlicensed Operation (NOUO).

The FCC will develop and publish a database of all licensed AM and FM broadcasters, accessible directly from the FCC home page. The FCC is also required to publish a list of “all entities that have received a Notice of Unlicensed Operation, Notice of Apparent Liability, or forfeiture order,” as well as “each entity…operating without a Commission license or authorization.”

The law defines pirate radio broadcasting as transmitting within the AM and FM bands without an FCC license, but excluding unlicensed operations in compliance with Part 15.    



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