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FCC Fines Pirate Radio Station, Property Owners
RADIO ONLINE | Tuesday, September 26, 2017 |2:13pm CT

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The FCC proposes the maximum fine allowable by statute -- $144,344 -- against a pirate radio operation in North Miami, FL. The action marks the first time the Commission has proposed finding the property owners where the transmission equipment was located apparently liable for the operation of the station. The Commission says "Unlicensed radio broadcasts are illegal and can interfere with licensed broadcasting, including broadcasters' ability to communicate public safety warnings to their communities."

The Commission's investigation into the station first began in 2012 when the Enforcement Bureau's Miami Field Office received a complaint about a potential unauthorized station broadcasting on 90.1 MHz in the North Miami area. After finding that the station was not authorized, Commission agents repeatedly warned both Fabrice Polynice, a programming provider, and Harold and Veronise Sido, who own the property where the station's transmission equipment is located, that the unauthorized transmission of a radio broadcast is illegal. These earlier actions resulted in a seizure of transmission equipment from the Sido residence in 2012 and a Forfeiture Order against Polynice in 2013.

However, Polynice apparently continued to operate the pirate station from the Sido residence. In fact, the parties even posted video of themselves in their pirate studio to social media. Commission field agents found on a least seven different occasions that the illegal station was still being operated from the Sido residence by Polynice. The Bureau's investigation found that while Polynice apparently provided programming for the station, the Sidos apparently provided material support in the form of free use of their property, including the shed from which Polynice broadcast, as well as electricity and Internet connectivity necessary for operation of the transmitter and antenna.

As a result of this investigation, the Commission today issues a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) against Polynice and the Sidos. The NAL finds that the actions of all three individuals were continuous and deliberate. Accordingly, the NAL proposes to fine all three individuals jointly and severally for a total of $144,344. Each will have 30 days to respond The Commission will then review the response and any additional evidence, and may then proceed to issue a final forfeiture order.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement, "For at least five years now, it appears that Mr. Polynice and the Sidos have jointly engaged in the illicit operation of a radio station in North Miami, Florida. On numerous occasions since 2012, the Commission has warned these individuals that operation of an unlicensed radio station is illegal, and that continued operation could result in further enforcement action. And in 2012, the Justice Department even seized the parties' radio broadcast equipment from a shed in the Sidos' backyard. But Mr. Polynice and the Sidos appear to have ignored each of these measures."

"Specifically, it appears that Mr. Polynice continued to provide the programming for the unauthorized station and to publicly promote its operations. And it appears that the Sidos authorized the installation and operation of the FM broadcast station in the backyard of their residence and provided material support in the form of use of their property, their electricity, and their Internet connection, all of which are necessary precursors to successful operation of the illegal station."

"This conduct is unacceptable. So we propose to hold these individuals jointly and severally liable for the maximum fine allowed under the Communications Act. With this action, we send a clear message to all pirate operators far and wide that we will use the strongest enforcement tools within our disposal to end this illegal practice."

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