The FCC has imposed $30,000 in fines against two alleged pirates who were behind the microphone and on the air with two different unlicensed stations in south Florida. Each programmed to the local Haitian community. Now they face $15,000 in fines apiece.
“Commission action in this area is essential because unlicensed radio stations do not broadcast Emergency Alert Service (EAS) messages, and so create a public safety hazard for their listeners,” Enforcement Bureau regional director Ronald Ramage says in the orders. “Moreover, unlicensed radio stations create a danger of interference to licensed communications and undermine the Commission’s authority over FM broadcast radio operations.”
In the first case, the FCC has ordered Vilnord Simon to pay $15,000 after field agents determined he was responsible for operating a North Miami pirate station at 103.1 FM on three separate occasions in late-2015 and early-2016. As Inside Radio reported last August, Simon is well known to the FCC, which believes he has been behind pirate stations dating back to 2008. The latest situation began in January 2015 when in response to complaints, Miami-based field agents used direction-finding technology to trace the pirate station calling itself “Lumiere Inter 103.1 FM” back to a multi-unit apartment building where an antenna was located on the rooftop.
They made a similar discovery seven months later when someone complained the pirate station—which was targeting the local Haitian community—was still on the air. Then in April 2016 field agents again tracked the station back to the same North Miami property. They later linked Simon to “Lumiere Inter 103.1 FM” online. Simon’s Florida driver’s license photograph, for instance, matched the one used in a post on the pirate station’s Facebook page.
The last time Simon and the FCC had a run-in was in Oct. 2008 when the agency issued a warning against Vilnord and Willy Simon for operating a North Miami pirate station at 103.1 FM. Back then, the station was beaming from an antenna mounted on a mast in a tree near a residential property.
The second pirate to be slapped with a $15,000 fine is Wilner Lundi who the FCC says was behind a separate unlicensed station in Florida. As Inside Radio reported last September, Lundi turned up on the FCC’s radar in February 2013 when field agents based at its Miami office traced back a pirate station at 91.5 FM to a home in Delray Beach, FL. That’s where agents were introduced to man who called himself “Tiwil.” But they recognized the individual as Lundi on the basis of a previous investigation into a pirate radio station and they issued a warning and left the home.
Then in January 2015 agents were again pirate hunting to find out who was behind an unlicensed station at 104.7 FM. This time they traced the station to a property in Lake Worth, FL where an antenna was located at the property. The agents returned to the property again in July 2015 and December 2015 after receiving complaints about a pirate station at 91.5 FM.
When agents contacted the property owner he revealed the space had been rented to Lundi out of which he operated “Radio Super FM” which targeted the local Haitian community. Agents were able to confirm the connection when the pirate station’s website and Facebook page listed the phone numbers that Lundi had given the landlord.
FCC chair Ajit Pai told a House oversight hearing this week that the agency has worked to “aggressively attack” the pirate radio problem since he took charge in January. During the first half of the year he said the FCC has issued 39 warnings, four fines and two proposed fines related to unlicensed radio operations.
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told lawmakers they could help by increasing the size of the FCC’s monetary penalties against pirate operators as well as giving the FCC the authority to go after people such as landlords and advertisers who knowingly help pirate stations. O’Rielly said the FCC should also spend less time on issuing warnings—which he said has been “incredibly frustrating and demoralizing” to Enforcement Bureau staff—and instead focus on pirate radio sweeps that would allow field agents to crack down on a larger number of operations.