The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) has issued warnings to 16 separate property owners and managers1 for apparently allowing illegal broadcasting from their property. The warned properties are comprised of residential properties and one church. The FCC’s warnings provided property owners and managers with written notice that the FCC may issue significant fines against them if, following a requested written response, it is determined by the Commission that the individual or entity has continued to permit pirate radio broadcasting from the property they own or manage. 

On January 24, 2020, Congress enacted the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act. The PIRATE Act provides specific authority to the Commission, under section 511, to combat pirate radio broadcasting with significant penalties. The PIRATE Act defines pirate radio broadcasting as the transmission of communications on spectrum frequencies without a license issued by the FCC, not including unlicensed operations in compliance with the Commission’s rules. The PIRATE Act permits the Commission to issue forfeitures for violations of section 511 of up to $115,802 per day and up to a maximum fine of $2,316,034 million.

The warned property owners and managers were given ten business days to provide a written response to the Bureau’s inquiry. If no response is received, the FCC may nonetheless determine that it has sufficient information to support an enforcement action against such property owner or manager for pirate radio activity.

The FCC levied its first fines under the PIRATE Act in March 2023 and although the PIRATE Act was enacted in 2020, many of the FCC’s enforcement efforts have been hampered since that time due to field investigation restrictions caused by the pandemic. Now with the lessening field restrictions, the FCC has begun to ramp up its investigatory efforts. Property owners and managers should make sure their lease agreements address these issues. 

1 The warned property owners and managers are: (1) AFAI Rockaway Corp.; (2) Bernadette C. Booker; (3) Andrea Coke and Patrick Green; (4) Crown Heights LLC; (5) Cesar M. Espejo; (6) Bernard Mede and Anne L. Mede; (7) Samuel Merceus Special Needs Trust; (8) Antoine Mercius and Aceline Mercius; (9) New Covenant Christian Church; (10) Newkirk 2215 LLC; (11) Elizabeth O. Ojofeitimi; (12) R&R Management LLC; (13) Rita Joseph; (14) RochPark Realty LLC; (15) Michael A. Simms and Gracia F. Simms; and (16) WIRA Associates.