Last year, in response to coverage that the FCC felt it had the authority to conduct warrantless searches of private property in its objective to clear the airwaves of unauthorized activity, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the agency. It asked the FCC to somehow rectify the quandary between its self-stated authority and the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects the public from “unreasonable” (i.e., unwarranted) searches and seizures.
Last month, the FCC responded to the EFF’s FOIA request, releasing a small cache of well-redacted documents related to the agency’s field investigation techniques. In a document entitled “Basic Investigation Techniques – On-Scene Overview,” the Commission seems to make its position clear: “Agents should never trespass on private property. You do have legal authority to inspect any radio station (broadcast, land mobile, amateur, etc.) at any time; however, you should contact the property owner to gain access.” In a later chapter, properly entitled “Limits of Authority,” the prohibition against trespassing is further articulated and specifies that FCC field agents may be held criminally liable if break this law. Continue reading “FCC Field Enforcement: Fourth Amendment Still Rules, Apparently”
The Enforcement Action Database is up-to-date again; so far for the year the FCC is running at blatant record pace with regard to enforcement actions – 235 as of mid-May, while 2009 saw a cumulative enforcement action total of 445. If this pace continues, 2010 may be the first year in which the FCC cracks 500 enforcement actions.
Taking a closer look at the data, the methodology of field enforcement remains the same – lots and lots of station-visits and threatening letters, but nothing in the way of raids and seizures, and very little in the way of monetary penalties. The practice of stats-enforcement is also still in full effect; for example, a whopping four warning letters were sent to different individuals in two states for the same unlicensed FM station in Brockton, Massachusetts. Continue reading “Enforcement Action Update: East Coast Booming”
About a week and a half left until dissertation-research formally concludes. Then a short break after which it’s time to organize the ~800 pages of notes collected from FCC dockets, trade publications, and related materials into formal prose. In the meantime:
Pirate Radio: Pally-pal Paul Riismandel wrote two excellent articles this week for Radio Survivor on unlicensed broadcasting. The first looks at a spate of FCC enforcement actions in Massachusetts, and especially around the Boston area. Continue reading “More Miscellaneous News of Note”
For the ninth year in a row, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has broken its record for the number of enforcement actions taken against unlicensed broadcasters in any given calendar year. 429 enforcement actions spanning 22 states have been catalogued; there are likely to be some stragglers into the database but 2009 goes into the books as the year of the one-armed paper-hanger.
The numbers themselves are relatively unsurprising. Enforcement actions in 2009 were more geographically-concentrated (Florida, New York and New Jersey accounted for nearly 63% of all enforcement actions), but unlicensed broadcast activity was reported coast-to-coast. Continue reading “War on Pirates in 2009: (Paper) Fur Flies Furiously”
The new chief of the agency’s Enforcement Bureau is P. Michelle Ellison, who will assume her duties as of September 28.
Interestingly, Ms. Ellison was not part of the Enforcement Bureau (typically they like to promote from within their own bureaus). Instead, she’s a lawyer – (soon to be former) “Deputy General Counsel, a position she has held for the last twelve years, and most recently served as Acting General Counsel of the FCC through July 2009.” Continue reading “FCC Names New Top Cop”
I caught up on the FCC’s enforcement actions against unlicensed broadcasters this weekend. The summer’s been kind of slow for field agents, though it doesn’t mean they’re not active: enforcement activity has been reported in 17 states this year, and stations both “new” and old are getting dimed.
As you can see from the graph at right, the majority of enforcement actions continue to be administrative: of all the enforcement activity conducted by the FCC against pirate broadcasters since 1997, fully 82% have led to nothing stronger than a visit or warning-via-certified letter. Continue reading “Enforcement Action Update: Paper Still Beats Rock, Scissors”
As part of a long-standing effort to get the legacy-projects of the site up to speed before delving into the dissertation, I’ve compiled the “final” statistics for the FCC’s enforcement actions in 2008 and brought the Enforcement Action Database up to-date for this year.
Unfortunately, the agency just missed hitting the 400 mark with enforcement actions last year – though due to the various methods by which the Enforcement Bureau inflates its enforcement statistics, it’s safe to say that most likely fewer than 200 stations were actually “dimed” by the agency in some way last year. Continue reading “Enforcement Action Database Update”
I’ve just finished updating the Enforcement Action Database. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has reported its field actions through mid-December, and as you can see, given any activity over the balance of the month, it is on target to meet and/or (most likely) beat the record enforcement year of 2007.
What does this mean? It depends on how you look at the data. Sure, the FCC’s busting more pirates than ever, but does that really mean it’s making a dent in station proliferation? A couple of major conclusions from the year-in-review are striking: Continue reading “The "War on Pirates" in 2008: Paper Beats Rock, Scissors”
I just updated the Enforcement Action Database: FCC field agents really went on a tear in July, and they are on pace to meet or beat their enforcement record set just last year.
But the really interesting cases I found involved stations who were licensed, let them lapse, and then just kept running as if nothing was amiss. Continue reading “Post-Facto Piracy: Not So Bad”
This is a first, as far as I know. The FCC’s tried to bluff their way into busts in the past, but not past actual cops.
In June, FCC Enforcement Bureau field agents made a run into Mount Carmel, Tennessee, to investigate unauthorized jamming of a police radio channel in the area (the problem had been going on for months before the FCC got around to sniffing around).
While in town, the agents ran into Mount Carmel and Church Hill police officers not once, but twice, on traffic stops. In both instances, the FCC folks told the local cops that they were part of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Meth Task Force. They had no credentials to back up their claim, and that made the cops suspicious. Continue reading “FCC Agents Illegally Impersonate Real Cops”