Emboldened by industry lobbying, the Federal Communications Commission has imposed the largest FCC fine in history against a pair of pirate radio broadcasters in Queens, New York.
César and Luis Angel Ayora are allegedly the operators of “Radio Impacto 2,” a station that characterizes itself as the “official radio of Ecuadorians in New York.” The Spanish language station broadcasts on 105.5 FM in the New York market and has since as early as 2016.
Prodded by the terrestrial radio industry, Congress passed the PIRATE Act three years ago. Despite the overall decline of the medium, the PIRATE Act beefed up the FCC’s investigative operations, mandating yearly “sweeps” through urban areas in search of pirate broadcasts, even when there is no record of complaints. The PIRATE Act also jacked up draconian punishments to a maximum of $100,000 per day with a $2 million cap.
In March, the FCC issued a notice proposing a $2.3 million fine against the Ayoras of Radio Impacto 2. The fine was confirmed by a forfeiture letter issued by the FCC on October 12, 2023.
The Ayoras, the order notes, have thus far refused to engage with the FCC’s letters and notices. The FCC previously issued a $20,000 fine against Luis Angel Ayora in 2015 and seized their equipment after he failed to respond. Their failure to reply to the FCC’s correspondence now and in the past “merits the strongest possible enforcement measures to the fullest extent of the law,” the forfeiture notice explains. They then provide helpful instructions on how the Ayoras can pay $2.3 million to the FCC by credit card.
The FCC itself has no power of compelling payment for these fines and will instead refer matters to the Justice Department if the Ayoras do not put the $2.3 million on their Visa within the next 30 days.
The FCC previously accused Spaceport America, a rocket launching facility in New Mexico which describes itself as “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport” of illegal broadcasts over four days in June of 2022. Strange people who willingly listen to terrestrial radio and especially those who make a dwindling amount of money from selling advertisements on it consider that “against the law” rather than “incredibly awesome.”