Florida Broadcasters Change Tactics Against 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.”
It should be noted that many south Florida pirates program to specific ethnic communities and often run commercials for businesses in those communities – giving listeners in those communities a choice and serving advertisers as well.
The article notes Clear Channel actively hunts pirates in south Florida. The FCC is credited with shutting down “about 900” pirate stations nationwide since 1999 – double the number claimed just 10 months ago – but as we’ve discussed previously there’s no way you can trust that number.
The meat of this story begins near the end of the article and involves two recent station busts in Fort Lauderdale and Lauderdale Lakes, triggered at the behest of WXEL, the National Public Radio affiliate in Boynton Beach. The FCC was not involved in these busts; Broward County Sheriff’s deputies and building inspectors moved on the stations and charged them with “municipal code violations and failure to prove ownership of radio equipment.”
Said Broward County Sheriff’s Department Captain Larry DeFuria, “If pirates are operating illegally in one venue, they’re probably operating illegally in another. We’re shoveling against the tide, but where we have the time and ability, we’ll do this in the future.”
He suggests the broadcast industry lobby for a state law to make pirate radio a crime; C. Patrick Roberts, president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters, thinks that’s a great idea and says “the group is already moving toward that goal.”
“A slap on the wrist doesn’t work,” he said. “Unless people get put in jail, they’ll keep coming back.” Shades of 1998 come to mind, when the number of pirate enforcement actions more than doubled after an industry call for a national crackdown…