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Officials Investigating Pirate Radio Station In Tri-Cities

Flickr, Takomabibelot

This may be  a first in Mid-Columbia radio history: a pirate, or a non-FCC-licensed, radio station in the Tri-Cities.

A few days ago authorities began investigating a pirate radio station broadcasting at 105.9 FM.

The station is airing an uninterrupted broadcast of the Genesis Communications Network’s Alex Jones show.  Jones is considered the “guru” for conspiracy theorists and individuals who tend to excessively not trust the government. The station was discovered almost by accident by authorities who picked up the station recently.   Usually when a new radio station hits the airwaves, it is accompanied by extensive publicity.  But not in this case.  A check of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records show there are NO radio stations in Eastern Washington or Northeast Oregon broadcasting at 105.9.

There is an FCC application for what is called a translator, or booster, at 105.9 to be built in Wenatchee/Chelan, but it does not have the power to come anywhere near here and has not been built yet.

Another tip was the lack of station identification or local content. Every radio station in the Mid-Columbia, including  Newstalk 870, repeatedly identifies itself using its name, call letters (in our case, KFLD), frequency, and official city of license. This is not the case with 105.9.

Authorities, using sophisticated electronic equipment, have pinpointed the exact origin of the signal; it is in Pasco but due to the ongoing investigation the location has not been released. The station is believed to have a broadcast radius of anywhere between 5 to 12 miles — or more — in every direction.

This pirate is very different and much stronger than the tiny FM transmitters used by athletic clubs to supply music to their clients inside a building, or the one used by Senske to broadcast their holiday music and light show. Those transmitters are below 100 milliwatts and Senske’s holiday music fades out  less then one block away. Those are legal with the FCC. It appears 105.9 is not within the FCC limits.

The FCC regularly investigates several dozen pirate radio stations each year; the vast majority of them are in Florida. It takes them seriously. FCC field agents will raid the location of the station, confiscate every piece of broadcast equipment, wires, cables and power supply units, then slap the owner/operator with fines as high as $25,000. It depends on how big the station is, how long it has been on the air, and how badly it may have interrupted licensed stations in the market. Strangely, a number of pirate operators are repeat offenders who, once shut down, set up another signal in the market!

More details will be forthcoming.

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