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Alleged Mattapan radio pirate faces $600k fine for staying on the air even after earlier warnings and fines

The FCC says it's grown tired of a man it says has been running an illegal radio station via transmitters in Mattapan, Randolph and Brockton for nearly two decades, so it's now proposing to fine him $597,775 in an attempt to get him to stay off the air.

In a notice of apparent liability for forfeiture, first reported by Inside Radio, the commission reports that its Boston office tracked
programming from Jean Harold Marius's Radio Tele Planet Compas at 89.3 MHz to an address on Walk Hill Street in Mattapan in both June and July of last year - and also followed the same programming to addresses in Randolph and Brockton.

It's the latest periodic attempt by the FCC to shutter low-wattage stations, generally aimed at Boston-area Haitian and African-American communities, that go online without an FCC license.

In December, Marius, who focuses on religious programming for the local Haitian community, wrote the FCC to say he had stopped transmitting on the air. This afternoon, a car radio in Roslindale tuned to 89.3 only picked up a Rhode Island NPR station.

Last year, the FCC set a minimum fine of $20,000 for pirate radio operators, but said Marius was more than deserving of a whopping increase, in part because he's been warned - and fined - by the commission before:

First, we find that Marius's conduct was intentional. Marius had been warned multiple times since 2004 that his conduct was illegal, including a forfeiture order issued against him, but he nonetheless chose to continue to operate without authorization. Second, we find that an upward adjustment is warranted based on Marius's history of prior violations of the Act observed by Agents in 2004 and 2017. Last, we find that Marius's broadcasting on two separate frequencies and from three different geographic areas was egregious as it significantly increased the likelihood of interference to lawfully operating stations and the potential for harm to the public if such stations needed to transmit emergency alerts.

Marius, who lives in Randolph, has 30 days to appeal the proposed fine.

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Comments

And give them to people like Marius. Local range stations - like almost all FM stations - should be locally owned.

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Voting closed 61

I understand the need to be careful stewards of the EM band, but I don’t think the community is better off having this station down. He should have been brought in, not locked out.

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Voting closed 46

The FCC when it finds a pirate radio station, informs the owner of the correct licensing procedures and requirements. They may not even get a fine, or at least not a substantial one.

Nothing stopped him from doing things the right way the first time the FCC found him, *decades ago*.

He's been caught numerous times and been slapped on the wrist each time, so he's kept doing it.

Please do look at the DECADES LONG history of him and the FCC and tell me how he's been so unfairly treated.

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Voting closed 13

...and they used to be. But then Ronald Reagan came along, and rules which limited owners to no more than seven AMs, seven FMs, and seven TV stations were repealed, paving the way for the rise of Iheart, Cumulus, and Beasley, the three companies that now own almost all radio stations in the Boston market except the non-commercial FMs.

The final nail in the coffin of local radio was hammered home by Bill Clinton when he signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which among other things, mandated that all vacant channels be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Clinton and Reagan are responsible for the current media landscape, one of whose consequences is the deep political divide in our country.

The only remaining locally owned full power ("Class B") commercial FMs in the Boston market are WPLM 99.1 and WXRV 92.5. There's also one medium power ("Class A") station with a commercial license: WHRB 95.3, which is owned by a student organization at Harvard.

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Voting closed 63

You're right. Coincidentally I was just reading about low power FM and how it's completely legal. Broadcast range varies widely but can range up to a mile. If a scattering of people all cooperated and played the same stuff, all synced up via internet, then you'd have a distributed broadcast system. Who's in?
Transmitter is around $100, but maybe we can get a bulk deal.

Just yesterday I was reading about some dude down in Montclair New Jersey who's been broadcasting "I'll Make Love To You" by Boyz II Men on repeat for 13 years. His broadcast reaches a couple blocks.

https://www.fcc.gov/media/radio/lpfm

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Voting closed 32

Up to a mile only in ideal conditions, free of obstruction and other interference. Even with a good transmission location, the signal won't go far. The hardware is cheap. They used to sell small FM transmitters for people to use in the car as a way of connecting their MP3 player to the stereo before cars came standard with Aux-In jacks and Bluetooth. (Mostly used in the Clinton years when cars stopped having cassette players but before MP3 players became a thing.)

The problem with pirate radio is that the unlicensed people use the same frequencies as the non-commercial stations. So they end up knocking the best legitimate broadcasters off the air. It's not as if they are replacing Clear Channel.

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Voting closed 27

Up to 12 miles under ideal conditions.

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Voting closed 18

And there aren't any currently available in Boston.

What's know as "Part-15" is legal unlicensed FM transmission. That's limited to a watt.

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Voting closed 15

The only legal way to broadcast to FM in the USA is to meet the power restrictions of 47 CFR Part 15, which is 250 microvolts/meter measured at 3 meters from the radiating antenna. That's TINY. On a good day it MIGHT reach 100ft. Not miles, FEET.

By contrast, a licensed 47 CFR Part 73 Class A 6kW FM station is 1 millivolt/meter measured at 28.3km. To put these in the same units of measurement:

  • Part 15 = 250 microvolts per meter, at 0.003 km
  • Part 73 = 10,000 microvolts per meter, at 28.3 km

Also the LEGAL transmitters cost a lot more than $100/ea. You might see FM transmitters on eBay for that little (maybe) but you'll notice that every single one of them is sold from an overseas location, usually China. That's because every single one of them is 100% illegal for use in the United States.

Oh, and if you're referring to the actual Class LPFM license (47 CFR Part 73.801 to 73.881) those are licensed at 100w referenced to 30m Height Above Average Terrain. To compare to the items above, it's 10,000 microvolts per meter (aka 1 millvolt/meter) measured at 5.6km. These many only be applied for during filing windows that typically open once every 10 to 15 years, and the last one was December 2023. They must protect all existing facilities and I'd wager that if there were room for any new ones in Boston before the last window, there sure aren't now. And it'd be 100% illegal for them all be broadcasting the same content; they cannot repeat another licensed station's broadcast.

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Voting closed 27

Oh please don't take a dump all over my dreams, man. :)

Thanks for the info! I appreciate you taking the time to explain it.

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Voting closed 19

They'll put a transmitter on the roof of a building far from their actual studios and feed it via the Internet. When the FCC comes knocking, they ask whoever answers the door to turn it off,which they do. Then the pirate comes, collects his equipment, sets it up at another location, and turns it back on. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Lately, the FCC has been going after landlords on whose property they find illegal transmitters. But the FCC is underfunded, doesn't have enough enforcement people, and has no powers of arrest.

My suggestion has always been that the state should pass a law, not against radio piracy, which is a federal matter, but targeting advertisers who use illegal stations. The law should be in the form of a whopping big tax, with the goal of making pirate radio an uneconomical choice for the advertisers. No advertisers, no pirate stations.

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Voting closed 23

The FCC going after the landlords, as the PIRATE Act gave them authority to do, was a stroke of genius precisely because it avoid the problem of FCC not having statutory authority to arrest pirates and/or seize equipment. (only the US Marshalls can do that, and they're understaffed as it is with better things to be doing)

When you're a property owner, and you have an outstanding federal forfeiture against your property, guess what you cannot do? That's right: pay/settle your annual property tax bill. Stop paying your property taxes, guess what happens? That's right: the local government comes after you. Local police, local courts, local arrests and seizures to settle the tax debt.

Worse, Massachusetts still has the legal authority (although not for long, thanks to recent court rulings) to seize ALL your property on a parcel with an outstanding tax bill, just to settle the debt. Regardless of how much more the property is worth than the bill.

It'll take a year or two to really take effect, but these FCC forfeitures will have real teeth in them before much longer. Marius is about to learn this the hard way, as is anyone who's ever allowed him to broadcast from their property.

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Voting closed 16

what is "radio"?

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Voting closed 17

Was he transmitting from Woolson Street or nearby? I remember a huge radio tower looming up in that residential area. I didn't think that much about it because we had huge satellite receivers in that part of the neighborhood back in the day.

The tower messed with my cable. Sounded more like a CB station than radio.

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Voting closed 21

Oh this easy, confiscate his equipment.

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Voting closed 18

than harass shut down this tiny local station? Apparently not.

As an aside, we live in 2024 not 1985. It's easy to create media to local community in the Internet, accessed with a smartphone which vast majority of people, including American Haitians, Haitians from Haiti, etc , own

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Voting closed 18

Not gonna lie, I find this extremely interesting and cool. I hope they drop the charges as it’s a non violence crime. Maybe just hit him with a misdemeanor.
The percentage of people who are ACTUALLY willing and able to set up and operate pirate radio is wager is very very very low. There’s no need to make example of this guy.

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Voting closed 21

These pirates interfere with the reception of other stations. The FCC rules exist for a reason: to manage a scarce resource -- radio spectrum -- in the public interest.

Anyone is free to "broadcast" on the Internet. There is room for an infinite number of stations there. But there's only so much room on the FM dial, and someone has to be the judge of who gets to use the channel space. Otherwise it will end up like CB radio in the 1970s, where millions of 5-watt transmitters produced a cacaphony of noise.

Ironically, there's now a vacant channel on the Boston AM band. The license of WZBR 1410 AM expired recently after its owner died and the station failed to get back on the air within a year. The AM band is perfectly good, but it's lost popularity primarily because most AM stations broadcast content of little interest -- typically angry right wing politics or Bible-thumping.

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Voting closed 22

Some of you recall - a radio station set up at Harrel's Ice Cream and Brighton Av and Harvard. I could pick it up from my job in Allston and it would fade around Coolidge Corner.

I think it was shut after WBOS complained.

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Voting closed 15

Radio Free Allston?

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