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Austin Pirate Fine Is Confirmed

No surprise: FCC says yes, it does indeed have the authority

Ten grand is the confirmed penalty for a pirate radio operation heard in Austin, Texas, in 2009.

It’s a case in which the station operators argued that the FCC doesn’t have jurisdiction on broadcasts within one state. It’s also of note because it came and went relatively quickly, as FCC enforcements go — it’s been less than five months since the initial complaint — and also because the commission says the illegal broadcasts continued even after agents had notified the operators they were in violation and outlined possible penalties.

The FCC this week upheld an earlier notice of apparent liability against Jerry and Deborah Stevens for operation on 90.1 MHz. The commission says the Houston office of the Enforcement Bureau in August used its direction-finding gear to source the signals at the Austin home in response to a complaint. It then issued a notice of unlicensed operation, which the Stevens acknowledged. They requested additional time to provide information in their reply.

The commission granted 30 days to provide info but said its agents identified illegal broadcasts on two subsequent dates. The Stevens responded by admitting operating radio transmitting equipment, though only within the boundaries of Texas, and questioned the FCC’s jurisdiction over intrastate communications.

In November the FCC issued its notice of apparent liability. Jerry and Deborah Stevens then contested it, citing a question of FCC jurisdiction. They also questioned whether the resident agent who signed the NAL had the authority to do so.

The FCC has now reiterated in its ruling that the law “explicitly sets forth the commission’s jurisdiction over all radio transmissions, both interstate and intrastate.”

It also explained that “resident agents at each installation are delegated authority by the commission to act upon applications, requests or other matters, which are not in hearing status.” And resident agents may indeed issue a written notice of apparent liability, it ruled.

The fine was confirmed by the regional director of the South Central Region of the Enforcement Bureau.