Commissioner Michael O’Rielly would
like Congress to give the FCC the power to seize equipment found in common
areas that is broadcasting illegally in the radio band.
been vocal about the problem of pirate radio, and he pressed his case during
his appearance this week on Capitol Hill, testifying before the U.S. Senate Commerce
“It is discouraging to admit that a core function
of the commission – protecting the integrity of commission-granted spectrum rights
– is not being sufficiently achieved as it pertains to pirate radio ‘stations,’”
he told the senators in his prepared testimony.
broadcasting with makeshift equipment and a laptop, these stations are
sprouting up and causing harm to consumers and the industry. Today, these
squatters are infecting the radio band at the expense of consumer services,
including emergency communications and the financial stability of licensed
He noted that he was told by the Massachusetts
Broadcasters Association that they’d found 24 pirates operating in one of their
markets and the problem has only increased.
issue mainly affects four to five larger East Coast radio markets (e.g.,
Boston, Miami, New Jersey, New York), failure to properly address it highlights
a deficiency in the commission’s enforcement tools and undermines our overall
creditability,” he said.
O’Rielly, who has blogged about
this problem and possible steps, told the committee, “I believe that this
situation is fixable and preventable. It will certainly take sufficient
enforcement commitment and diligence, which I think exists from the personnel
in our field offices and the addition of our new ‘tiger teams.’”
he said the commission would benefit from “some limited and targeted” statutory
authority dedicated to address pirate radio.
propose that the commission be able to seize equipment found in common areas
that is broadcasting illegally in the radio band. In addition, our current
fines should be increased, and some ability to impose penalties on those that
directly and intentionally aid pirate stations could be helpful. While I would
have concern if this authority were applied across the board, in this instance,
I believe it would help minimize our current whack-a-mole approach that has
proven less than effective.”