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NY State to regulate radio

New York state senate and assembly are considering a bill that would essentially regulate radio transmissions within the state. According to the website Open NY (senate):

S2737-2011: Creates the crime of unauthorized radio transmission, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment and a fine in the amount of not less than $10,000.00.

Text of the bill:

S 190.72 UNAUTHORIZED RADIO TRANSMISSION.
 A  PERSON  IS  GUILTY  OF  UNAUTHORIZED  RADIO  TRANSMISSION WHEN SUCH
 PERSON:
 1. KNOWINGLY MAKES OR CAUSES TO BE MADE A RADIO TRANSMISSION  IN  THIS
 STATE  WITHOUT  FIRST  HAVING  OBTAINED  A  LICENSE OR AN EXEMPTION FROM
 LICENSURE FROM THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION OR OTHER APPLICABLE
 FEDERAL LAW OR REGULATION; OR
 2. ACTS, WHETHER DIRECTLY OR  INDIRECTLY,  TO  CAUSE  AN  UNAUTHORIZED
 RADIO  TRANSMISSION  TO,  OR  INTERFERENCE  WITH, A PUBLIC OR COMMERCIAL
 RADIO STATION LICENSED BY THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS  COMMISSION  OR  TO
 ENABLE THE RADIO TRANSMISSION OR INTERFERENCE TO OCCUR.
 A  PERSON CONVICTED OF UNAUTHORIZED RADIO TRANSMISSION SHALL BE GUILTY
 OF A CLASS D FELONY.

The impetus for this legislation is pirate broadcasters, mostly in the NYC area:

Local radio stations often have their programming and signal “bumped off” the air, or drowned out by unofficial, unlicensed “pirate” radio stations that broadcast without FCC approval. This law will raise financial fines and incarceration penalties to serve as an disincentive for those who would make such illegal broadcasts.

The way the section one of the bill reads, no distinction between broadcast services and all other radio services, functionally making any police officer in the state capable of shutting down any radio operation, regardless of the service, arresting, fining, and jailing the operator.  The above law seems much too broad, nor does it take into account the supremacy clause of the US constitution.

The rise of the pirate operator came about because broadcasting licenses are basically unobtainable for the vast majority of people and licensed radio stations fail to serve larger and larger segments of the population.  For those that can afford satellite radio or mobile internet devices and data plans, services like Pandora, XMsirius have filled the gap, somewhat.

For those people in the lowest incomes brackets, who cannot afford internet connections, fancy phones and so on, radio is still the main information and entertainment source.  For those who are concerned about the current state of the media, it’s ability and or desire to report unbiased news, unauthorized broadcasting can serve as a pressure release valve.  I am not saying the unlicensed operation is the right thing to do, merely that there is a vacuum currently, which needs to be addressed.  If there were not a call for pirate radio programming, the operators would not take the risk and expense to go on the air.  Solve that problem, and no new law would be needed.

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14 comments to NY State to Regulate Radio

  • J. Aegerter

    Where else but New York would be the first state to run a losing proposition usurping FCC enforcement? I am sure it is all about “REVENUE” in order to get a license from Albany. And how is the nearly bankrupt state going to enforce their pipsqueak law? How many “radio rangers” are they going to add to the already enormous state payroll budget? How many patrol cars are they going to buy? How many direction finders and other equipment will they requisition? Will the “radio rangers” be armed? New York is already a TAX HELL with a high state income tax. New York City has its own income tax, which residents pay in addition to the state income tax! And, what are they going to do with all of the alledged violators; fine them? And if they are indigent or will not pay, are they going to Ryker’s or Attica which are both already jammed to capacity? This is about the most crazy proposition I have ever heard!

  • Actually, New York would be the third state in the union to criminalize pirate radio on the state level (last decade: Florida and New Jersey did this – it’s a felony and misdemeanor, respectively).

    Difference? I’ll be parsing this later this week. Spoiler alert: Meh.

  • Tony

    Isn’t LPFM supposed to fill the vacuum? Oh wait, that’s right…if you ever were a pirate, you’re not elegible for LPFM, even if you might have the skills to be a succesful LPFM operator. Maybe states and the feds should just outlaw radio altogether, and sell the spectrum to cell phone companies!

  • J. Aegerter

    Maybe it is finally time to start over. The FCC should be renamed the “Feudal Communications Commission”, as it relates to Feudalism and behaving as a king holding spectrum auctions. This along with adopting rules akin to politics rather than science and mathematics. There appears to be almost zero engineering input at OPP (Office of Plans and Policy), and spectrum guardianship appears to have been relegated to the ashheap of history. This agency is today almost completely run by lawyers, and maybe its time to again quote Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 2 Act 4; “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”. This could easily be done by eliminating this Roosevelt era alphabet-soup agency and starting over with an engineer run organization without the lawyers and politicians.

  • Paul Thurst

    I can’t argue against your point John. The FCC seems determined to accommodate the highest bidder, both in sale of spectrum and in applying their own long standing regulations regarding interference and other issues. Seems that greed trumps all.

  • I would agree that there are almost no engineers having input at the FCC these days. Today’s FCC is pretty intent on grabbing spectrum and auctioning it at the highest price possible. Also, their interest in broadcasting appears to be searching for any possible infraction it can find and levying fines whenever possible.

    My career in radio began back in 1979, when most of the stations in my market were all Mom-and-Pop operations. Now the Mom-and-Pop stations are pretty much gone, gobbled up to run satellite-fed dreck. Average citizen? Forget it. the entry price point is too high.

    LPFM was something I wanted to do, but the applications were MX’ed and it didn’t seem worth waiting years for. When the LPFM was finally granted..well, it’s a religious satellite feed. Now, I worked in Christian radio for 13 years, and enjoyed it. We were live and local. All the networks and competition finally killed the station. Now it’s run by Catholics. I’ve been beached for several years.

    The NY state law does not mention legal Part 15. The FCC does allow for Part 15 broadcasting, although it seems like they are issuing more NOUOs on these than they used to.

    I legally ran a Part 15 AM station for a number of years but finally decided just to concentrate on Internet radio, and streaming across more platforms. I’m a content provider more than an engineer.

    Ironically, I had no trouble whatsoever with my Part 15 AM. Clear Channel once bought a spot flight on it because it reached an audience the cluster did not.

    This law appears to be over-reaching. I hope it’s found unconstitutional.

  • R. Fry

    Seems as if some people are taking a rather hysterical “sky is falling” attitude toward this, when it may not be justified.

    This bill may not be as onerous as feared, at least the way it is worded now — which states:

    “… A PERSON IS GUILTY OF UNAUTHORIZED RADIO TRANSMISSION WHEN SUCH PERSON KNOWINGLY MAKES OR CAUSES TO BE MADE A RADIO TRANSMISSION IN THIS STATE WITHOUT FIRST HAVING OBTAINED A LICENSE OR AN EXEMPTION FROM LICENSURE FROM THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION OR OTHER APPLICABLE FEDERAL LAW OR REGULATION…”

    The phrase in bold text in the quote above should mean that operators of unlicensed transmit systems in the AM & FM broadcast bands are not making unauthorized radio transmissions in NY state as long as they (really) comply with Part 15.

    Of course all the people with systems just claiming to be compliant with Part 15 still will be at risk from the proposed NY law, as well as they always have been from actions by the FCC.

  • J. Aegerter

    Mr. Fry, are you a lawyer? I believe that we have way too many laws on the books and certainly do not need anymore. Everytime a new law is passed, the lawyers and the “knee-jerk” politicians feel good (as does a few of their constituents). Please Mr. Fry, follow the money! How does this impact the New York taxpayer? Is there any fiscal responsibility there? The lawyers always win; they write stupid laws upon laws that do very little except keep them in business. The USA is over-lawyered in my opinion, and is one element responsible for our great country slowly going out of business. In the words of a renowned successful businessman, Steve Wynn (Wynn Resorts); “it has to stop”!

  • R. Fry

    J. Aegerter asks, “Mr. Fry, are you a lawyer?”

    No. I am a retired, corporate r-f systems engineer with an interest in broadcast-related issues.

  • Hey Fry: Let me see if I got this right,the FCC penalty is a civil fine but the NY State penalty is a CRIMINAL PENALTY with presumably jail time, and you think that is not serious? Felonies stay with you forever AND ARE NOT generally EXPUNGABLE! They want to jail you for running a pirate radio station? How does that warrant the same penalties as say drunken driving, armed robbery, child molestation? Are pirates penalty wise on the same level as terrorists? Drunken drivers kill people but who has ever been killed by a pirate FM broadcaster? It is a penalty to protect corporate interests NOT the average citizen.

  • R. Fry

    Robinson: I agree that defining unlicensed broadcasting as a felony is severe, and I hope that the NY state legislators reduce the penalties to those that the FCC applies for such proven infractions.

    Another important consideration also should be made by the NY state legislators — that of the qualifications of the persons concluding that a given unlicensed operator is in violation of FCC Part 15, which legally permits such operations under certain conditions.

    That capability requires a significant engineering background, the use of specialized test equipment, and a thorough understanding of Part 15 — all of which are unlikely for the average agent of law enforcement.

    Unlicensed operators whose citations truly are baseless according to FCC Part 15 will need to prove such in court, which will be an expensive process to them personally, and a waste of the resources of the State of New York.

  • Paul Thurst

    A class D felony is draconian measure for unlicensed operation. The Part 15 angle is an interesting one; unless the arresting authority has the proper, calibrated measuring equipment and the training to use it, it might be difficult to prove a station was not operating under part 15. As of this date, the police (and the district attorney) still have to prove that the law has been broken in order to get a conviction. Without field strength measurements and field calculations based on distance from transmitting antenna those measurements were made, there is no case. I don’t know of too many police officers that could do those kinds of calculations.

  • J. Aegerter

    Yes, yes, yes! The outlay to equip “radio rangers”, and the training required will hardly make any police officer capable of writing any report or citation under this law. To get a “NAL” (Notice of Apparent Liability) from Washington, the district FCC field office engineers have to “stand on their heads” in order to get one. This was conveyed to me in a meeting with a member of the Chicago regional office field engineering team. And the states are suddenly going to do all this? Another “feel good” law to keep lawyers busy.

  • […] in the amount of not less than $10,000.00.” Thanks go to John Anderson at DIYmedia.net and Paul Thurst at Engineering Radio for first making me aware of this […]

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