Amid a recent flurry of warnings to alleged operators of unlicensed radio stations and property owners where stations are based, Federal Communications Commission chief Ajit Pai confirms fighting pirate radio has become a “major priority” for the agency. “We’ll take aggressive action to enforce the rules against pirate radio broadcasters,” Pai wrote on Friday in response to a thank you from the Massachusetts Association of Broadcasters to Pai and commissioner Michael O’Rielly for giving the pirate problem more attention in recent weeks. O’Rielly also took to social media to comment, saying Pai is the “first FCC chairman to be engaged” on the issue, adding, “watch out pirates.”
As part of the FCC’s stepped-up enforcement action the Enforcement Bureau has targeted the owners of several Florida and Massachusetts properties where the unlicensed stations are based. And in each situation the agency says it was responding to complaints.
The FCC says agents based at its Atlanta field office were in South Florida on May 22 when they tracked a Miami pirate station at 101.1 FM to a home owned by Clairelia and Walter Saint Fleur and Sylvie Grand-Pierre. That same day agents were also at work in nearby Fort Lauderdale where they acted on another complaint and traced an unlicensed station at 100.3 FM to a home in Oakland Park, FL owned by Tracy and Gerard Peters. In both cases the Enforcement Bureau has fired off warnings to the homeowners to power down the pirate stations immediately. They are giving the homeowners ten days to respond to the FCC after which the Bureau will have the option of taking action, such as issuing a fine.
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, FCC field agents were hunting pirates as well in recent weeks. They tracked a Worcester station at 98.7 FM to a Maywood Street apartment building owned by Betty Sarfo on May 25. That same day in the Boston suburb of Medford field agents traced another pirate station—also operating at 98.7 FM—to the New England Evangelical Church of Mount Olives. That resulted in a warning letter being sent to the Church’s pastor, Wisland Georges. And then on June 7 agents were in Springfield, MA tracking down a pirate operating on 101.5 FM. They followed the signal to its source, which the FCC says was a home owned by Wendy Lopez. Similar to South Florida, the owners in Massachusetts have ten days to explain why a pirate station was broadcasting from their property.
The two-state crackdown follows a similar flurry of pirate-fighting activity in the New York metro area that has led the FCC to issue more than a half-dozen warning letters.