The FCC is one step closer to getting added firepower in its efforts to quash unlicensed radio station operators once and for all — despite the belief by some members of Congress that pirate radio stations have a positive impact on underserved communities.
The “Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act” on Wednesday easily cleared the Senate Commerce Committee, setting the stage for a full Senate vote.
Colloquially known as the “PIRATE Act,” the Senate bill mirrors a House bill that passed in the lower body of Congress by unanimous consent in February.
The PIRATE Act would increase fines for illegal pirate operations from $10,000 per violation to $100,000 per day per violation, up to a maximum of $2 million, and streamlines the FCC’s enforcement.
Senate legislation was introduced by Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and sees one co-sponsor, Gary Peters (D-Mich.).
Consideration of the PIRATE Act by the Senate comes in reaction to a plea from broadcaster associations from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who united on Tuesday (5/7) to persuade the two most powerful members of the U.S. Senate to pass the bill.
The unanimous passage of S. 1228 was warmly greeted by NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith. He thanked the committee for its unified vote in favor of the act, which would “better equip the FCC to combat pirate radio operations that interfere with legal broadcasts and pose a threat to air traffic control communications.”
David Donovan, President of the New York State Broadcasters Association (NYSBA), also applauded the Committee’s vote.
“With this unanimous vote, we move another step closer to giving the FCC the tools it needs to address the growing illegal pirate radio problem,” Donovan said. “Illegal pirate radio continues to be a problem in New York. They interfere with airport communications and Emergency Alert Services (EAS). Illegal stations disregard all FCC and consumer protection laws. While the FCC has increased its enforcement efforts, additional tools are needed to address this vexing problem.”