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Federal Communications Commission
1919 - M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

March 22, 1999
  News Media Contact: David Fiske or
Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0500



On March 12, 1999, the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the government's motion to enjoin operation of an unlicensed radio broadcast station in New York City known as "Steal This Radio." In his 26 page opinion, Judge Michael B. Mukasey also denied a complaint filed by "Steal This Radio" that sought to enjoin the FCC from taking enforcement action against the unlicensed operation.

As a result of an investigation, the New York Field Office (Field Office) of the Compliance and Information Bureau found that "Steal This Radio," which began broadcasting in November of 1995, was operating on frequency 88.7 MHz without a license. Despite a warning from the Field Office, "Steal This Radio" continued to operate without a license. Subsequently, the operators of "Steal This Radio" and two listeners of the station filed their eight count complaint in U.S. District Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and the FCC's licensing regulations, and seeking an injunction against the FCC. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a motion seeking to enjoin "Steal This Radio" from further operation and moved for dismissal of the "Steal This Radio" complaint.

The District Court dismissed all eight counts in the complaint filed by "Steal This Radio." The Court rejected "Steal This Radio's" First Amendment arguments. According to the Court, the regulatory framework for licensing radio stations withstands constitutional review because it specifies procedures which the FCC must follow in such cases and it provides for judicial review of any FCC ruling granting or denying a license.

In granting the United States' request for an injunction against operation of the unlicensed radio station, the Court stated that "[g]iven plaintiffs' three-year-long, nearly continuous violations of the [statutory] licensing requirement, there is every indication that plaintiffs will continue to violate this provision in the future unless restrained by judicial order."

The FCC urges operators of all unlicensed stations to voluntarily cease their illegal broadcasting operations. Unlicensed or unauthorized operation of a radio transmitter or station (AM, FM, International Short Wave and TV) is a violation of Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 301. Under the Communications Act, violators may be subject to penalties up to $11,000 and the equipment used is subject to seizure and forfeiture by court order. Unlicensed operators also could be subject to criminal fines of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year, or both, for a first-time offense.


Compliance and Information Bureau contact: Pamera Hairston at (202) 418-1160
Office of the General Counsel contact: David Silberman at (202) 418-1740; TTY (888) 835-5322