The FCC’s Pirate Police have found new life under Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who has been vociferous in his desire to give the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and its field agents more fire power to extinguish the nation’s buccaneers of broadcasting.
In the latest action that indicates the quest to quash pirate broadcasters is being invigorated, Enforcement Bureau Regional Director Dave Dombrowski on Monday (6/19) sent a Forfeiture Order to an individual in the New York City suburb of Paterson, N.J. in the amount of $25,000 for his unlicensed activities.
The financial penalty could spell the end for “Big Link Radio“, which had been using the 97.5 MHz frequency in Paterson for a Caribbean R&B and hits presentation. The operator, who the FCC identified as Conroy Dawson, had been actively promoting Big Link Radio via its own website with audio streaming, now inactive. A Facebook page also served as a promotional vehicle for the unlicensed station.
Dawson received a Notice of Apparent Liability in mid-January 2017, which proposed a $25,000 fine for his “apparent willful and repeated violation” of FCC rules by continuing to use 97.5 MHz without a license.
The only party authorized to use the signal in the Paterson area is “Radio Cantico Nuevo,” a Spanish-language religious operation using a translator in Jersey City, N.J.
On Feb. 10, 2017, Dawson filed a response to the NAL. In it, he argues that the NAL should be cancelled or reduced. Why? He asserts that, although he operates an internet-based streaming radio station, his operation does not have a broadcast component and, as a result, he is the victim of pirate broadcasts rather than the perpetrator.
What did Dobrowski’s team have to say to that?
“We have fully considered Mr. Dawson’s response to the NAL, but we do not find his arguments persuasive,” he said.
The FCC first started investigating unlicensed broadcasts in Paterson at 97.5 MHz in October 2015. In May 2016, agents from the New York Field Office investigated, and discovered the existence of “Big Link Radio.” The source of the transmissions was determined to be from Dawson’s apartment.
Following receipt of a preliminary Notice of Unlicensed Operation, Dawson contacted the New York Office by telephone, claimed to have sought a license from the Commission to operate the station, and agreed to remove the transmission equipment.
Two months later, the unlicensed broadcasts were once again back on 97.5 MHz, but from a new location in Paterson.
In August 2016, “Big Link Radio” was still on air — this time from a third locale.
This led Dombrowski’s office to issue what until now has been one of the largest NALs ever handed to a pirate radio operator.