FCC Sweeps Florida; State Senate Set to Pass Anti-Pirate Bill

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.
This raid was apparently part of a sweep involving four Florida stations last week; two others also received $10,000 forfeiture notices. The forfeitures are interesting because they involve two stations that operated out of the same location and broadcast on second-adjacent channels to each other (one on 91.3, the other on 91.7, although it’s unclear if they were on the air simultaneously).
Coincidentally, on the same day the FCC and various cops made their rounds the Florida State Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee unanimously endorsed a bill making pirate radio a felony. It’s expected to come up for a vote in the full Senate sometime this week. No new movement on companion legislation in the Florida House.
Closer inspection of the bills notes they also criminalize the act of interfering with any commercial or public broadcast outlet, intentionally or not.