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FCC Writes Up 3 More NYC Pirates, This Time With $6M in Proposed Fines

Routine pirate sweeps have identified illegal operations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Mount Vernon

With the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act, signed into law in 2020, a new era dawned for the FCC and its ability to issue larger fines against the operators of pirate radio stations in order to deter illegal operations. In continuing that mission, the FCC has issued $6.4 million in proposed fines against several pirate radio operators located in the Bronx and Brooklyn in New York City, and in the neighboring city of Mount Vernon.

In today’s actions, the FCC proposed the maximum penalty allowable under the PIRATE Act — upwards of $2.3 million — against Johnny Peralta for allegedly operating an unlicensed radio station known as La Mia Radio in the Bronx since 2018. A 2022-2023 New York pirate radio sweep by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau confirmed that La Mia Radio continues to operate.  

In addition, the commission has proposed the maximum fine against Dexter Blake for his suspected operation of a pirate station known as Linkage Radio in Mount Vernon, just north of the Bronx.

The FCC also proposed a forfeiture of $1.8 million against Matthew Bowen for 89 alleged violations of FCC rules due to continued operation of a station known as Triple9HD in Brooklyn.

The proposed actions in the form of notices of apparent liability, or NALs, require the operators to pay their fine or file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture. The parties are given 30 days to respond. 

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement: “In the PIRATE Act, Congress upped the ante. It increased the penalties for those who transmit unauthorized signals over the FM and AM radio bands because they can compromise public trust in this service and jeopardize the broadcasting of emergency alerts. This means higher fines and more regular enforcement seeps in our largest radio markets.”

Rosenworcel in the statement also credited FCC field agents for their work tracking the three alleged pirate radio operators. “(The proposed fines) also demonstrate that the agency’s field agents are taking their broadcast enforcement duties under the PIRATE Act, and that we are taking our responsibility as stewards of the public airwaves, seriously.”   

The FCC continues its campaign against pirate operators with these actions. The FCC recently confirmed a record fine of $2.3 million against operators of another unlicensed station in New York City.

While the Enforcement Bureau tally of fines against pirate operators has grown steadily this year, it is hard to determine how successful the FCC is in those collecting fines. History shows it’s not easy to collect money from “fly-by-night,” unlicensed broadcasters. The FCC says unpaid fines are referred to the Department of Justice for collection.

The PIRATE ACT also gives the FCC the authority to go after landlords that house the operations of suspected illegal radio stations. In March it issued letters to 16 landlords in the New York City area demanding proof that the illegal broadcasts on their properties have ceased and requesting identification of the individuals involved.

[Related: “FCC Pirate Radio Sweeps Turn to Miami“]