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.