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Tonko Bill to Safeguard Public Airwaves Passes Senate

Approval sends measure to protect airwaves from illegal radio broadcasting to President’s desk

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Washington, January 10, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON—Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) announced today that the U.S. Senate has voted to approve his legislation to stiffen the penalty for illegal ‘pirate’ radio broadcast signals that interfere with first responders, air traffic controllers and legitimate broadcasts.

“Clear and safe public airwaves are easy to take for granted, but they are critical for the countless professionals who rely on them to guard our public health and safety,” Congressman Tonko said. “For example, first responders and air traffic controllers depend on these broadcasting systems to do their jobs, sometimes during life-and-death situations. What’s more, safe radio broadcasting empowers Americans the control they need to be able to protect themselves and their families from illegal broadcasters whose dangerous and vulgar content would never have been allowed on the air otherwise. My Senate colleagues showed good judgment in voting to pass this legislation, and I urge President Trump to show the same and sign this measure into law without delay.”  

H.R. 583, the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act, introduced by Rep. Tonko and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) in January of last year, would impose significant new fines for illegal broadcasters sending out pirate signals that can threaten public safety, interfering with Emergency Alert Systems and other services relied upon by first responders to protect our communities.

“Illegal pirate radio stations continue to harm New Yorkers. They interfere with airport communications; undermine the Emergency Alert Services (EAS); ignore government RF radiation standards; disregard all FCC rules and pay no attention to consumer protection laws,” said David Donovan, President of the New York State Broadcasters Association. “These illegal stations pose a serious threat to the public. The PIRATE Act gives the FCC enforcement tools to protect the citizens of New York and the nation. I want to thank the Senate leadership for moving forward with the bi-partisan PIRATE Act. I especially want to thank Congressman Tonko for his leadership in helping to pass this legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this year. We are grateful to Congress moving forward and hope the bill will be signed into law quickly.”

The PIRATE Act would increase fines for a pirate radio broadcasting violation to no more than $2 million, as well as imposing fines up to $100,000 per day for pirating violations, subject to a $2 million limit. The legislation is endorsed by National Association for Broadcasters (NAB), New York State Broadcasters Association (NYSBA) and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Inc. (NABOB).

This legislation passed the House of Representatives in a unanimous vote in February 2019.

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