Monkey's Last Stand

There seems to be some controversy over the FCC’s move to fine Pirate Cat Radio founder Daniel “Monkey Man” Roberts. The forfeiture notice, issued last month, details the FCC’s investigation of the station since 2009 and cites the significant amount of leg-work done in the case.
Roberts has engaged the services of an attorney, who is arguing that since the FCC has no evidence of him actually operating the transmitter, there’s no credible grounds for a forfeiture. The agency disagrees, noting Roberts’ extensive work as Pirate Cat station manager, fundraiser, DJ, and all-around public face, as well as his prior (and dubious) claim that unlicensed broadcasting is exempt from licensure under certain extenuating circumstances.
Roberts and his attorney claim that the FCC’s expansion of what is considered “operation” of an unlicensed radio station sets a dangerous precedent that could expand the pool of liability when it comes to pirate broadcasting more generally. This is conceivable, but the agency’s in no material condition to ramp up its enforcement efforts even if it had the authority to cast a wider net, so it’s not a very credible threat.
I respect the resistance Roberts is putting up in fighting the fine, but it’s unlikely to amount to much. It’s axiomatic that publicity can bite a pirate in the ass, and Roberts has had more than his fair share of it.
Pirate Cat Radio was launched in Roberts’ bedroom in 1997 and later moved to San Francisco. He’s been quite the media-seeker for his activity over the years, featured repeatedly in newspapers and on television, and proudly claims to have received more than 120 warning notices from the FCC over the course of the station’s operation. At one time, the Pirate Cat enterprise even included a rare pirate TV station.
Roberts has also parlayed his experiences with Pirate Cat elsewhere in the world of community radio. In 2010, he maneuvered himself into a position of control at a licensed community radio station in Pescadero, California. Details are not completely clear, but an attempt to “merge” the resources of Pirate Cat and KPDO, as well as a fundraising campaign ostensibly dedicated to purchasing FM frequencies in the Bay area, went down in flames, leading to the ouster of Roberts from both stations (Pirate Cat has since renamed itself Mutiny Radio and continues to this day).
In the midst of this, Roberts left the country for the UK on family business, and while there has reportedly been active in underground broadcasting.
I’m sorry that the FCC finally caught up with Roberts, but he still has a good chance of getting off the hook in the end, considering the FCC’s abysmal success rate at collecting on pirate fines. In all, it’s been a good run – most pirates can’t claim 14 years of quality operation.