Although it went down with little public notice or debate, a challenge is mounting to the state of Florida’s criminalization of unlicensed broadcasting. The new state law threatens up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for anyone who interferes with a licensed radio system (broadcast or otherwise).
The law was admittedly tailored to attack Florida’s pirate station “infestation,” but the potential to lock people up for causing interference has also apparently alarmed some in Florida’s amateur radio community as well. They feel that opening up radio regulation to entities beyond the federal level constitutes a slippery slope that in the long run may do more harm than good to the FCC’s overall enforcement authority. Continue reading “Hams Consider Challenge to Florida's Anti-Pirate Law”
A weak piece in the Palm Beach Post celebrates the fact that the only thing standing between local whoop-ass and unlicensed broadcasters is the pen of Governor Jeb Bush. Florida Association of Broadcasters president C. Patrick Roberts gloats over the nearly-complete rout:
“Now the sheriff’s office, working with state attorneys, can also move to protect the airwaves, protect the emergency messages that go out, and protect the airplanes flying across Florida.” Continue reading “Pirate Radio in Florida: Nothing Left But the Gnashing of Teeth”
DJ Johnny Nitro, “a pissed off micro broadcaster with no frequency left to broadcast on,” reports that the Haitian and Jamaican pirate stations raided in the Ft. Lauderdale, FL area earlier this month are back on the air.
Nitro’s not happy with these folks because they run massive power (easily several hundred watts, even up into the four-digit range) and massive commercials: “they play more commercials then some of the clear channel station[s] and are in it for the cash.”
Somewhat whimsical articles in various Florida outlets celebrate the state Senate’s 30-8 passage Thursday of a bill making unlicensed broadcasting a felonious crime. Amendments to lower the penalty to something more reasonable failed. This is likely to be law by the end of the week or weekend; the bill is already engrossed in the state House.
Interestingly enough, this legislation initially began as an effort to set up a state prosecutorial agency for organized crime, to which the anti-pirate radio police role was tacked on. The final version of the bill only criminalizes pirate radio – everything else disappeared. Continue reading “Criminalization of Pirate Radio in Florida Nearly Complete”
Interesting developments on the drive to criminalize pirate radio in Florida. Amendments have been filed to the legislation pending in the state Senate that would reduce the severity of the “crime” of unlicensed broadcasting from a third-degree felony to a first-degree misdemeanor. One version failed on second reading yesterday. Another (pending) amendment would punish first-time pirates with misdemeanors and treat repeat offenders as felons.
Still no news from those whose job it is to report it, save a little blurb in the Tampa Tribune. It should be noted that this bill is not solely about pirate radio stations: it actually creates something called the “Office of Statewide Prosecution,” whose primary job will be to go after organized crime in general. The mandate to hunt pirate radio stations is tacked on – as all good special-interest favors usually are.
Last week was a busy one in the Sunshine State. An FM pirate was busted in a high-profile raid in Lake Worth; this one was apparently tracked down by the chopper pilot of a local TV station. Mainstream media coverage of this case is particularly sketchy; interference with an aviation frequency is involved, but the hype of what this actually means is blown way out of proportion.
Then there are the ancillary “facts”: the most comprehensive coverage (courtesy of the Palm Beach Post) says pirate radio transmitters cost “as little as $5,000” (off by a good factor of ten – on the high side) and cites the FCC as claiming to have shut down “more than 400” radio pirates in Florida since 1997. Continue reading “FCC Sweeps Florida; State Senate Set to Pass Anti-Pirate Bill”
SB 2714 has been introduced in the Florida State Senate. This legislation would allow state authorities loose on the hunt for pirate stations; the act itself would be treated as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Presently it is a crime in Florida to intentionally interfere with radio signals – a misdemeanor.
SB 2714 cleared the Senate’s Committee on Communication and Public Utilities last month on a 7-1 vote and awaits similar endorsement by the Criminal Justice Committee. A companion bill in the state House has already been endorsed by its Committees on Business Regulation (28-8) and Appropriations (37-5). Continue reading “Florida Moves to Criminalize Pirate Radio; Jammers Hit Clear Channel?”
Last August an NPR affiliate got the Broward County Sheriff’s office to raid two unlicensed FM stations, using building code violations to gain entry.
C. Patrick Roberts, president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters, was overjoyed with the success of the local raid, which did the job the FCC failed to do.
The push is now on to formalize this tactic as law: the FAB (ha!) is now working with sympathetic state lawmakers to criminalize pirate radio in the state of Florida. ”I believe it’s better to use a Mack truck than a flyswatter,” said Roberts. Continue reading “Florida Broadcasters Prepare Next Offensive on Pirates”
An article in the business section of Sunday’s Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper highlights the “pirate problem” in southern Florida and features lots of quotes from irate broadcast industry-types. My favorite comes from David Ross, Clear Channel’s regional vice president for its 27 south Florida broadcast properties:
“They’re destroying the ability of listeners to hear what they choose and our ability to serve advertisers. It’s a form of squatting. They don’t pay any taxes, they’re breaking the law, they don’t need to meet any licensing requirements and they affect all of us, from the biggest to the smallest operator.” While there is a huge mass of pirate activity in Florida, making that state the most active by far, one gets the sense Ross would say the same thing in any situation where there’s “pirates.” Continue reading “Florida Broadcasters Change Tactics Against Pirates”
More reports of microradio enforcement activity stretch the FCC’s efforts this month from coast to coast. Radio Free Brattleboro, a Vermont microradio station that got its start in a teen center some five years ago, got a nasty visit from two FCC agents Tuesday. Video was recorded of the incident (which we hope to get) and although the agents had no search warrant a list containing contact information for many of RFB’s volunteers is missing from the station. Radio Free Brattleboro’s web site went down at approximately the same time as the visit.
From RFB’s official announcement: “It’s a real shame because in addition to providing entertainment and information to the community, we have trained hundreds of local citizens of all ages in the art of radio broadcasting.” DJ trainer Steven Twiss emailed with more pointed reaction: “The community here is building up a nice case of outrage.” Continue reading “FCC Strikes Again in Vermont, Florida”