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Tonko Bill to Safeguard Public Airwaves Passes House

Bipartisan PIRATE Act would increase penalties on illegal broadcasting

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Washington, February 25, 2019 | comments

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously tonight to pass Congressman Paul Tonko’s legislation H.R. 583: the PIRATE Act, a bipartisan bill that would increase penalties for unlawful radio broadcasting a.k.a. “pirate radio.” Pirate signals can pose a threat to human health and disrupt Emergency Alert Systems and other services used by first responders that are essential to public safety.

“Safe public airwaves are easy to take for granted in our everyday lives, but the negative consequences of a breakdown in this system can be serious,” Tonko said. “The same broadcasting standards that empower first responders and air traffic controllers to communicate in life-or-death situations are also helping parents protect their children and themselves from hateful bigotry and vulgar obscenities. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House for their consistent bipartisan support of this legislation and I urge the Senate to take up this worthy measure without delay.”

Tonko introduced the bill last month with Republican co-sponsor Gus Bilirakis of Florida.


  • Stands for Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act.
  • Increases fines for a pirate radio broadcasting violation to no more than $2 million
  • Imposes fines up to $100,000/day for pirating violations, subject to a $2 million limit

A nearly identical bill was passed in the house last year. The new designation, H.R. 583, was given for the new legislative session. The PIRATE Act has been endorsed by the National Association for Broadcasters (NAB), New York State Broadcasters Association (NYSBA) and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Inc. (NABOB).


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