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Three Strikes, You Owe $25,000

Alleged N.J. pirate ordered to pay up after more than a year

A New Jersey man faces a $25,000 fine from the FCC in a pirate radio case.

Commission Enforcement Bureau Regional Director David Dombrowski has affirmed the monetary forfeiture order against Conroy Dawson of Paterson, N.J., who has disputed the FCC’s accusations.

Dawson argued against the planned fine earlier this year, but the commission deemed the evidence against him compelling. 

At three sites over the course of nearly a year, the FCC said, Dawson operated a pirate station branded as “WBLR — Big Link Radio 97.5 FM.” It said agents from the New York Field Office first investigated a complaint of an unauthorized station in May 2016, at which point Dawson, who also operates an internet radio station using the same branding, was identified as the source and directed to stop broadcasting. 

The agents issued a Notice of Unlicensed Operation; he responded by calling the New York office and claiming to have sought a license to operate the station, but also agreed to remove the transmission equipment, according to the FCC’s case summary. However, it said, two months later, he again began broadcasting via 97.5 FM, this time from a different location, where agents posted a warning. Then in August, the “WBLR” pirate station was discovered to be broadcasting from a third site. The second and third sites used the same branding and studio call-in number.

This January, the Enforcement Bureau issued a notice of apparent liability and proposed a $25,000 forfeiture for apparent willful and repeated violations. He responded in February saying that it should be canceled or reduced; he denied connection to the broadcast signal; he also said the New York office never contacted him before issuing the NAL, which the commission said is refuted by its records.

The commission wasn’t convinced, thanks in part to the branding and a reference on the station’s website to over-the-air programming. It declined to reduce the penalty. Dawson is supposed to pay within 30 days.