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O’Rielly Seeks Funding to Implement PIRATE Act

Commissioner wants Senate to factor new enforcement tools into FCC budget

One FCC commissioner is personally asking for the Senate to be mindful of one particular part of the newly requested Federal Communications Commission budget — and it involves the money the commission needs as it attempts to tackle pirate radio activity in new ways.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly sent a letter to Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-LA), chairman of the subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, as the committee goes about reviewing the $339 million budget request of the commission. Specifically, O’Rielly asked Kennedy to give close consideration to the efforts the commission must now make to implement the new PIRATE Act.

[Read: It’s Official: PIRATE Act Signed Into Law]

Passage of the PIRATE act, short for Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act, in January 2020 was a welcome change, O’Rielly said, since it gives the commission new tools to combat pirate radio operators.

But those new tools come with an additional price tag. The commission has its work cut out for it, O’Rielly said, as it attempts to address the estimated 300-plus pirate operators that exist across the nation.

“With passage of the PIRATE Act, Congress has demanded that increased attention be paid to radio pirates and that enforcement action by the commission against pirate radio be as aggressive as possible,” O’Rielly said in his letter.

The act gives the commission the authority to levy fines of up to $100,000 per violation and $2 million in total. The act also streamlines the enforcement process; requires the FCC to conduct mandatory pirate radio enforcement sweeps in cities with the highest concentration of pirate radio use; and seeks to ensure more coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement.

According to O’Rielly, now that the act is in place, the FCC needs the subcommittee to appropriately prioritize pirate radio enforcement, whether that be through new funding or a reallocation of existing resources.

“Thankfully, by substantially increasing allowable penalties and requiring annual sweeps … the act provides us with potential tools at our disposal to address this issue,” O’Rielly said.