(House of Representatives - February 25, 2019)

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[Pages H2050-H2052]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. TONKO. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill 
(H.R. 583) to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for 
enhanced penalties for pirate radio, and for other purposes.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                                H.R. 583

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Preventing Illegal Radio 
     Abuse Through Enforcement Act'' or the ``PIRATE Act''.


       Title V of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 501 et 
     seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new 


       ``(a) Increased General Penalty.--Any person who willfully 
     and knowingly does or causes or suffers to be done any pirate 
     radio broadcasting shall be subject to a fine of not more 
     than $2,000,000.
       ``(b) Violation of This Act, Rules, or Regulations.--Any 
     person who willfully and knowingly violates this Act or any 
     rule, regulation, restriction, or condition made or imposed 
     by the Commission under authority of this Act, or any rule, 
     regulation, restriction, or condition made or imposed by any 
     international radio or wire communications treaty or 
     convention, or regulations annexed thereto, to which the 
     United States is party, relating to pirate radio broadcasting 
     shall, in addition to any other penalties provided by law, be 
     subject to a fine of not more than $100,000 for each day 
     during which such offense occurs, in accordance with the 
     limit described in subsection (a).
       ``(c) Annual Report.--Not later than 1 year after the date 
     of enactment of the PIRATE Act, and annually thereafter, the 
     Commission shall submit to the Committee on Energy and 
     Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on 
     Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report 
     summarizing the implementation of this section and associated 
     enforcement activities for the previous fiscal year, which 
     may include the efforts by the Commission to enlist the 
     cooperation of Federal, State, and local law enforcement 
     personnel (including United States attorneys and the United 
     States Marshals Service) for service of process, collection 
     of fines or forfeitures, seizures of equipment, and 
     enforcement of orders.
       ``(d) Enforcement Sweeps.--
       ``(1) Annual sweeps.--Not less than once each year, the 
     Commission shall assign appropriate enforcement personnel to 
     focus specific and sustained attention on the elimination of 
     pirate radio broadcasting within the top 5 radio markets 
     identified as prevalent for such broadcasts. Such effort 
     shall include identifying, locating, and taking enforcement 
     actions designed to terminate such operations.
       ``(2) Additional monitoring.--Within 6 months after 
     conducting the enforcement sweeps required by paragraph (1), 
     the Commission shall conduct monitoring sweeps to ascertain 
     whether the pirate radio broadcasting identified by 
     enforcement sweeps is continuing to broadcast and whether 
     additional pirate radio broadcasting is occurring.
       ``(3) No effect on remaining enforcement.--Notwithstanding 
     paragraph (1), the Commission shall not decrease or diminish 
     the regular enforcement efforts targeted to pirate radio 
     broadcast stations for other times of the year.
       ``(e) State and Local Government Authority.--The Commission 
     may not preempt any State or local law prohibiting pirate 
     radio broadcasting.
       ``(f) Revision of Commission Rules Required.--The 
     Commission shall revise its rules to require that, absent 
     good cause, in any case alleging a violation of subsection 
     (a) or (b), the Commission shall proceed directly to issue a 
     notice of apparent liability without first issuing a notice 
     of unlicensed operation.
       ``(g) Pirate Radio Broadcasting Database.--
       ``(1) In general.--Not later than 90 days after the date of 
     the enactment of this section, and semi-annually thereafter, 
     the Commission shall publish a database in a clear and 
     legible format of all licensed radio stations operating in 
     the AM and FM bands. The database shall be easily accessible 
     from the Commission home page through a direct link. The 
     database shall include the following information:
       ``(A) Each licensed station, listed by the assigned 
     frequency, channel number, or Commission call letters.
       ``(B) All entities that have received a notice of 
     unlicensed operation, notice of apparent liability, or 
     forfeiture order issued by the Commission.
       ``(2) Clear identification.--The Commission shall clearly 
     identify in the database--
       ``(A) each licensed station as a station licensed by the 
     Commission; and
       ``(B) each entity described in paragraph (1)(B) as 
     operating without a Commission license or authorization.
       ``(h) Definition of Pirate Radio Broadcasting.--In this 
     section, the term `pirate radio broadcasting' means the 
     transmission of communications on spectrum frequencies 
     between 535 and 1705 kilohertz, inclusive, or 87.7 and 108 
     megahertz, inclusive, without a license issued by the 
     Commission, but does not include unlicensed operations in 
     compliance with part 15 of title 47, Code of Federal 

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from New 
York (Mr. Tonko) and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Latta) each will 
control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New York.

                             General Leave

  Mr. TONKO. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 
have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and 
include extraneous material on the measure under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from New York?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. TONKO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise to support H.R. 583, the Preventing Illegal Radio 
Abuse Through Enforcement Act, or PIRATE Act, a bill sponsored by 
myself and Mr. Bilirakis. This measure is a bipartisan, commonsense 
bill that passed the House last Congress.
  Mr. Speaker, first, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has worked 
on this measure. I thank Representative Bilirakis for agreeing to lead 
this effort with me in this Congress. I thank our former colleague, 
Congressman Leonard Lance, for all his work on this bill in the past. 
And I thank the New York State broadcasters for their dedication.
  For years, I, along with many Members of the New York and New Jersey 
delegations, have voiced our concern that pirate radio operators are a 
threat to Americans' public health and safety. Yet these lawbreakers 
are as prevalent as ever, and their actions have been met with few 
consequences. This legislation responds directly to that threat.
  The FCC has taken some positive steps to remedy this issue, but more 
needs to be done.
  In short, the PIRATE Act would increase penalties and restrictions on 
pirate radio.
  Whether a radio frequency is being used by first responders 
coordinating to save lives, or parents who want to keep obscenity and 
bigotry away from their children, for example, our communities are 
better served when broadcasters respect the rule of law.
  Previous drafts of the PIRATE Act included provisions creating 
liability for those who facilitate illegal pirate radio operation. 
These provisions were removed as being duplicative with existing law. 
For example, under current law, the FCC can hold a property owner 
liable for allowing a pirate radio operator access or other assistance.
  Cutting these provisions should not be taken as limiting the 
Commission's authority to assess fines against those who assist illegal 
pirate operations. On the contrary, the consequences established in 
this act would also apply in these contexts.

[[Page H2051]]

  The text of the bill before us today includes changes that were 
requested in the Senate last Congress.
  Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record letters of support for H.R. 583 
from the 50 State broadcast associations.
                                                 January 18, 2019.
     50 State Broadcasters Associations Urge Passage of the 
         Bipartisan PIRATE Act
     Hon. Nancy Pelosi,
     Speaker, House of Representatives,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Mitch McConnell,
     Majority Leader, U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Kevin McCarthy,
     Minority Leader, House of Representatives,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Charles Schumer,
     Minority Leader, U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leaders McCarthy, McConnell and 
     Schumer: The undersigned broadcasters associations 
     representing local, over-the-air broadcast stations in all 50 
     States, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of 
     Puerto Rico urge your swift consideration and passage of the 
     Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) 
     Act (H.R. 583). The PIRATE Act would provide the Federal 
     Communications Commission (FCC) with critical new enforcement 
     measures to combat pirate radio operations. Last Congress, 
     substantially similar bipartisan legislation (H.R. 5709, 
     115th) passed the House of Representatives unanimously.
       For years unauthorized pirate radio stations have harmed 
     communities across the country by undermining the Emergency 
     Alert System, interfering with airport communications, posing 
     direct health risks and interfering with licensed stations' 
     abilities to serve their listeners. The time has come to take 
     significant steps to resolve this vexing problem.
       The PIRATE Act gives the FCC additional tools to address 
     the growing pirate radio problem. It provides the authority 
     to levy increased fines up to $100,000 per violation and 
     $2,000,000 in total. The PIRATE Act streamlines the 
     enforcement process and requires the FCC to conduct pirate 
     radio enforcement sweeps in cities with a concentration of 
     pirate radio stations. It recognizes the importance of FCC 
     coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement 
     authorities. Finally, the PIRATE Act would create a database 
     of all licensed radio stations operating in the AM and FM 
     bands as well as those entities that have been subject to 
     enforcement actions for illegal operation.
       We are reaching the point where illegal pirate stations 
     undermine the legitimacy and purpose of the FCC's licensing 
     system to the detriment of listeners in communities across 
     the country. The PIRATE Act will help the FCC restore 
     integrity to the system. For these reasons, local 
     broadcasters across our great nation fully support the 
     bipartisan PIRATE Act and urge its swift passage without 
       Sharon Tinsley, Alabama Broadcasters Association; Cathy 
     Hiebert, Alaska Broadcasters Association; Christopher Kline, 
     Arizona Broadcasters Association; Luke Story, Arkansas 
     Broadcasters Association; Joe Berry, California Broadcasters 
     Association; Justin Sasso, Colorado Broadcasters Association; 
     Michael Patrick Ryan, Connecticut Broadcasters Association; 
     C. Patrick Roberts, Florida Association of Broadcasters; Bob 
     Houghton, Georgia Association of Broadcasters; Jamie 
     Hartnett, Hawaii Association of Broadcasters; Connie Searles, 
     Idaho State Broadcasters Association; Dennis Lyle, Illinois 
     Broadcasters Association.
       Dave Arland, Indiana Broadcasters Association; Sue Toma, 
     Iowa Broadcasters Association; Kent Cornish, Kansas 
     Association of Broadcasters; Chris Winkle, Kentucky 
     Broadcasters Association; Polly Prince Johnson, Louisiana 
     Association of Broadcasters; Suzanne Goucher, Maine 
     Association of Broadcasters; Lisa Reynolds, Maryland/D.C./
     Delaware (MDCD) Broadcasters Association; Jordan Walton, 
     Massachusetts Broadcasters Association; Karole L. White, 
     Michigan Association of Broadcasters; Wendy Paulson, 
     Minnesota Broadcasters Association; Margaret Perkins, 
     Mississippi Association of Broadcasters; Mark Gordon, 
     Missouri Broadcasters Association.
       Dewey Bruce, Montana Broadcasters Association; Jim Timm, 
     Nebraska Broadcasters Association; Mitch Fox, Nevada 
     Broadcasters Association; Tracy Caruso, New Hampshire 
     Association of Broadcasters; Paul Rotella, New Jersey 
     Broadcasters Association; Paula Maes, New Mexico Broadcasters 
     Association; David Donovan, New York State Broadcasters 
     Association; Lisa Reynolds, North Carolina Association of 
     Broadcasters; Beth Helfrich, North Dakota Broadcasters 
     Association; Christine Merritt, Ohio Association of 
     Broadcasters; Vance Harrison, Oklahoma Association of 
     Broadcasters; John Tamerlano, Oregon Association of 
       Joe Conti, Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters; Jose 
     A. Ribas Dominicci, Radio Broadcasters Association of Puerto 
     Rico; Lori Needham, Rhode Island Broadcasters Association; 
     Margaret Wallace, South Carolina Broadcasters Association; 
     Steve Willard, South Dakota Broadcasters Association; Whit 
     Adamson, Tennessee Association of Broadcasters; Oscar 
     Rodriguez, Texas Association of Broadcasters; Michele 
     Zabriskie, Utah Broadcasters Association; Wendy Mays, Vermont 
     Association of Broadcasters; Doug Easter, Virginia 
     Association of Broadcasters; Keith Shipman, Washington State 
     Association of Broadcasters; Michele Crist, West Virginia 
     Broadcasters Association; Michelle Vetterkind, Wisconsin 
     Broadcasters Association; Laura Grott, Wyoming Association of 
  Mr. TONKO. Mr. Speaker, H.R. 583 is a bipartisan, commonsense advance 
in the laws that support our first responders and protect our 
communities. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation so it can 
be taken up in the Senate and signed into law.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. LATTA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I also rise in support of H.R. 583, the Preventing 
Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act, the PIRATE Act, introduced 
by my friends Mr. Tonko and Mr. Bilirakis.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Tonko and Mr. Bilirakis for their bipartisan 
efforts to combat illegal pirate radio operations.
  This bill gives the Federal Communications Commission, along with 
State and local law enforcement, more tools to go after pirate radio 
operators. Without the ability to effectively go after illegal 
transmitters, the FCC and other entities cannot protect the over 240 
million Americans who rely on radio broadcasting for vital news and 
  Furthermore, stopping bad actors from pirating our airwaves improves 
public safety by preventing unlawful broadcasts from interfering with 
first responders' lifesaving communications and public safety 
officials' transmission of critical information in an emergency.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge passage of the PIRATE Act, and I reserve the 
balance of my time.
  Mr. TONKO. Mr. Speaker, I have no further Members who choose to 
speak. I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. LATTA. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
Michigan (Mr. Walberg).
  Mr. WALBERG. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 583, the 
PIRATE Act, led by Chairman Tonko and Representative Bilirakis.
  The bipartisan bill takes an important step to protect the vital 
public safety announcements, news, and educational benefits local 
broadcasters serve to their communities.
  When illegal pirate radio operators interfere with important public 
safety communications, it can be detrimental to the public. These 
illegal pirate operators also interfere with critical aviation 
frequencies, potentially putting lives at risk.
  Legitimate, licensed broadcasters who provide the foundation of our 
Nation's Emergency Alert System must be protected from this type of 
harmful interference.
  H.R. 583 would give the FCC stronger tools to continue their 
enforcement sweeps and fine violators in order to better protect 
  Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce 
Committee for their leadership on this bipartisan legislation, and I 
urge its passage today.
  Mr. LATTA. Mr. Speaker, again, for all the reasons that I have stated 
here today on the PIRATE Act, I believe that this bill is essential to 
pass today, and I ask the House to pass H.R. 583.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. TONKO. Mr. Speaker, to close, I believe that this measure, H.R. 
583, moves us forward in a way that better protects public health and 
safety. It has the endorsement of many in the field, including 50 State 
broadcast associations.
  Mr. Speaker, I encourage our colleagues to support H.R. 583, and I 
yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 583, the 
Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act, 
introduced by Reps. Paul Tonko and Gus Bilirakis. I want to thank Rep. 
Chris Collins of New York and former Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey 
for leading on this last Congress.
  Mr. Speaker, I've been around radio for most of my life. From working 
as a teenage janitor at my dad's radio station to spending more than 20 
years as a radio station owner myself; in fact, I'm still a licensed 
amateur radio operator today. But you don't need that much experience 
to understand that protecting our public airwaves from illegal pirate 
radio interference is important for consumers and broadcasters alike.

[[Page H2052]]

  The PIRATE Act gives the FCC additional tools to address the growing 
pirate radio problem and increases the penalties for bad actors. These 
illegal broadcasts deprive Americans of important programming provided 
by legitimate broadcast license-holders serving the public interest. 
And they can disrupt important public safety communications, including 
our nation's Emergency Alert System and critical aviation frequencies. 
In many cases, these pirate radio stations broadcast vile and vulgar 
content, which also harms consumers. By preventing illegal pirate radio 
operations, consumers are protected, and airwaves are kept free for 
legitimate broadcasts and public safety announcements.
  Last Congress, this House passed the PIRATE Act by voice vote. I'd 
like to thank our former colleague Leonard Lance, who first authored 
this legislation last Congress, and my colleagues Mr. Tonko and Mr. 
Bilirakis for bringing this important bill to strengthen our public 
safety communications back to the House floor today. I urge its quick 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from New York (Mr. Tonko) that the House suspend the rules 
and pass the bill, H.R. 583.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.