In-Depth: Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to set forth protections from illegal radio operators's signals, which can pose a significant threat to public safety — oftentimes disrupting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations, the Emergency Alert System and other tools relied upon by first responders. Upon reintroducing this bill, Rep. Tonko said:
“Protecting our public airwaves is critical for preserving community safety, whether for first responders or for working parents who don’t want to expose their children to uncontrolled hate and obscenity. Whether a frequency is being used in emergencies to coordinate community response and save lives or by parents who just want to tune their car radios with their kids in the car, our communities are better served when broadcasting is governed by the rule of law."
Last Congress, Rep. Tonko was joined then then-Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) in introducing this bill.
Speaking at the start of the markup in the last Congress, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) commented that the PIRATE Act:
“Gives the FCC more tools to combat illegal pirate radio operations. These illegal broadcasts deprive Americans of their access to important emergency alerting information and their access to educational and other programming provided by legitimate license holders.”
The National Association of Broadcaster (NAB) supports this bill. Its Executive Vice President of Communication, Dennis Wharton, says:
“Unlicensed radio stations are not merely a nuisance to legitimate radio broadcasters who play by the rules. They also pose a threat to public safety by disrupting communications between air traffic controllers and airline pilots.”
FCC Chairman Michael O'Rielly expressed his support for this bill during the previous Congress, telling broadcasters at the 2018 Radio Show that this bill would not only give the FCC more resources, but also help ensure that there's no rollback under future administrations.
This bill has four bipartisan cosponsors, including two Democrats and two Republicans, in the 116th Congress. In the last Congress, it passed the House on a voice vote and with the support of 14 bipartisan cosponsors, including 8 Democrats and 6 Republicans. The bill is supported by the National Association for Broadcasters (NAB), New York State Broadcasters Association (NYSBA), the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Inc. (NABOB), and broadcast associations from all 50 states.
Summary by Countable Team(Photo Credit: iStock / Bet_noire)