Pirate-Busting Meets Limits

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Broadcasting PirateFCC Chairman Tom Wheeler reiterates the limits the agency is up against in its ability to crackdown on radio pirates.


Sixteen House members of Congress had written the chairman, saying the unlawful interference from those illegally on the airwaves in that area is a big problem.

In his response, Wheeler reiterated what he’s been saying publicly — that enforcement is subject to budget and priority limits. He points out the “commission’s staffing is at its lowest point in 30 years and overtime is less available.”

So “matters posing an imminent threat to public safety or directly harming large numbers of consumers must take precedence over other matters, including pirate radio,” he writes.

RBR+TVBR observation: While the FCC can levy fines, it cannot kick down doors and bust pirates on its own; it relies on other federal agencies to take the lead there. The fact that pirates can easily move their operations (and do) make chasing them difficult and time-consuming. Wheeler did note the June 29 “Pirate Radio Roundtable” where participants discussed ideas like enabling landlords and more local law enforcement to step in.


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