October 19, 2014

Pirate Fines Are Often Tough to Collect, Or, "Askin' ain't Gettin' "

While the following article initially appeared several years ago in 'Radio World', an organ of the licensed broadcast industry, it is still a very good source of information for pirate radio station operators who are concerned with the possible vs. likely consequences of being caught running a pirate radio station by the FCC.

It should be noted that standard operating procedure for the F.C.C. currently is to issue a warning to the offending operator on a first offense, usually a "Notice of Unlicensed Operation" warning the operator to "cease and desist" operating the unlicensed station  (such as was received by The Crystal Ship back in 2011).   It is usually only after the op has been caught in continued unlicensed operations after at least one warning, that the FCC will  attempt issuing a fine to the offending station, called a "Notice of Apparant Liability".

As the following article will explain, these fine notices against pirate radio operators often aren't worth the paper they are printed on... (thus, "Askin' ain't Gettin' " ~ John Poet)

Pirate Fines Are Often Tough to Collect  
by Randy J. Stine
on 11.17.2011

WASHINGTON — While the FCC Enforcement Bureau tally of fines against “pirate” operators has grown steadily this year, it is hard to know how many of those fines will ever be collected.

In fact, broadcast industry people familiar with commission practices believe the FCC likely fails to collect a majority of pirate fines.

Once the commission starts to go after an alleged illegal operator, things get complicated. It’s not easy to collect money from what often turn out to be fly-by-night operations. And in tight economic times, when federal agencies face budget constraints, authorities must decide how far to go to collect a relative pittance.

One problem lies in the fact that the FCC needs an outside agency help to get an enforcement action to stick, observers said. The commission can assess fines on an unlicensed broadcaster, but it must engage the services of the United States Department of Justice to file a civil claim for the judgment rendered, according to the Communications Act of 1934.

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