The FCC upheld a $10,000 fine for both Brooklyn, N.Y. residents Andre Alleyne and Jessie White for operating an unlicensed radio station for several months.
The case began in 2008 when FCC field agents in the New York City office responded to a complaint of interference from a licensed FM. The agents monitored 96.5 MHz and traced the source to an apartment building on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Field strength measurements showed the signal exceeded the legal Part 15 transmission limits.
The field agents saw an FM antenna on the roof of the apartment building, with a cable going into one apartment. The building superintendant told the agents the unit was leased by Alleyne and White.
The agents tried to inspect the station, but the two women who answered the door refused to let them in, according to the FCC. One of them did identify herself as White and said she lived in the unit with her boyfriend. The agents told her that the station was illegal and asked her to turn it off. When the agents returned to their car, the unauthorized transmission had stopped.
On July 20, 2008, the New York Office issued a Notice of Unlicensed Operation to Mr. Alleyne and Ms. White, warning them that operating an unlicensed station violated the Communications Act and outlining the penalties. The notice directed them to turn off the transmitter immediately and gave them 10 days to reply.
The commission said the New York office did not get a reply to the notice.
In October of 2008, the New York agents returned to the apartment building, spoke to the superintendant who said Alleyne had removed the roof antenna.
In December 2008, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability of $10,000 each for both Alleyne and White for operating an illegal station on 96.5 MHz in Brooklyn. Alleyne and White didn’t dispute the findings, but sought cancellation because they said they allowed a friend to operate the station from their apartment, they believed the station was legal and stopped transmissions once they heard otherwise. They also said they didn’t have enough money to pay the fine.
The commission said this week the facts don’t warrant a reduction or elimination of the fines. The agency said in its decision that it doesn’t matter whether a friend operated the station; Alleyne and White are liable because they still had management and control over the station. Both admitted they installed the antenna and White was able to turn off the transmitter, showing control over the station, noted the commission.
And as far as the claim that Alleyne and White thought their station was legal, the FCC said “ignorance of the law is not a mitigating factor,” and declined to reduce or cancel the fine. They also didn’t submit any documentation to support their claim of an inability to pay the fine, according to the agency. The FCC gave them 30 days to pay the fines or said it may refer the case to the Justice Department for collection.
— Leslie Stimson