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FCC Issues $10,000 Fine in Arkansas Pirate Case

Says Gerald Sutton claimed Communications Act does not apply to him

Pirate radio concept imageAn Arkansas man must pay $10,000 for alleged illegal broadcasting, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Gerald Sutton has been directed to pay within 30 days, after which the FCC says his case may be referred to the Justice Department.

The investigation began in summer of 2018 when the FCC says it received a complaint about an unauthorized FM station in Alma, Ark. It says an agent subsequently observed a signal on 103.1 MHz, traced it to an address in Alma and found that it exceeded allowable limits under Part 15 of the rules. An agent identified Gerald Sutton as the operator, said he refused an inspection, and said the signal disappeared after the agent’s arrival but was turned on again later.

According to the commission summary, Sutton subsequently wrote to the FCC at the end of 2018 to say that the federal Communications Act did not apply to him.

The Enforcement Bureau issued a notice of apparent liability against Sutton in August 2019, and now says he never replied to it.

“Pirate radio stations undermine the commission’s primary mission to manage radio spectrum,” wrote Ronald Ramage, acting field director of the Enforcement Bureau, summarizing the commission’s longstanding stance on this issue.

“Such illegal operations can interfere with licensed communications, including authorized broadcasts and communications by public safety entities. Moreover, such illegal operations pose a danger to the public because they interfere with licensed stations that inform their listeners of important public safety messages, including Emergency Alert System transmissions that provide vital information regarding weather and other dangers to the public.”

[Related: “It’s Official: PIRATE Act Signed Into Law”]