Equipment and staff needed to enforce compliance with the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act (PIRATE Act) will cost the FCC a minimum of $11 million, the agency says as it seeks increased funding for the coming year. The FCC estimates about 300 illegal radio stations are operating in the U.S.
The agency would use the money to, “hire about 30 staff, including engineers to detect RF,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee this week. The fund would also be used to purchase vehicles and software. Money to implement the act was not included in the agency’s FY2021 $343 million budget request, which is why the Commission asked Congress for the extra funds.
“Pirate radio is an extremely harmful practice that involves unauthorized individuals illegally broadcasting radio programming over the air, using channels that are either already occupied or located on nearby existing licensed channels within the radio band. The interference caused by these ‘stations’ is detrimental to licensed radio broadcasters,” wrote FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly in a letter to the subcommittee following the hearing.
With passage of the bill, Congress has “demanded” that increased attention he paid to radio pirates and that enforcement action by the Commission against pirate radio “be as aggressive as possible,” according to O’Rielly, who has worked on the issue for years. He called the mandate “a welcome charge,” as the Commission sought more tools to combat pirate radio, which has affected both large and small markets.
President Trump signed S. 1228 into law last month. It increases the fines on unlicensed station operators to $100,000 per day per violation, up to a maximum of $2 million.
The measure also requires annual monitoring and enforcement “sweeps,” among other changes, wrote O’Rielly. “The act provides us with potential tools at our disposal to address this issue,” he noted.
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