FCC Slams Pirate (Illegal) LaGrande Radio Station With $80K Fine
The term Pirate has nothing to do with the content, it's the long-accepted term for an illegal radio station.
LaGrande, OR man facing huge FCC fine
Stories like this don't often make national radio news, but this one did. According to Inside Radio, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finalized a whopping $80,000 fine against a LaGrande, OR man who has repeated offenses.
Thomas Barnes has been operating an illegal station, broadcasting at 100.5 FM off and on since at least 2018.
The FCC requires all radio stations to obtain a license to broadcast. There are exceptions for tiny 1-watt FM transmitters like those used by public holiday displays so people can sit in their cars and enjoy music to the lights. The Senske Light Show in Kennewick puts out a signal that reaches maybe 2 blocks if that.
The FCC considers a pirate station to be anything well above that, usually starting at around 100 watts. Depending on the surrounding terrain, a typical 250-watt FM transmitter, or translator, has a reach of anywhere from 15 to 35 miles.
Many FM stations have anywhere from 50K to 100K watt transmitters.
Twice Barnes was investigated by FCC agents, at that time he was broadcasting out of a motel in LaGrande at 92.3 FM. The FCC got involved because his station was interfering with the signal of a legitimate station in the market.
Between 2018 and 2022, he voluntarily surrendered his transmitter, but in March of that year, a third complaint was filed with the FCC. Then, he signed on another FM at the 100.5 frequency. Inside Radio reported this week:
"Barnes then took to Facebook where he posted a video admitting he was operating a pirate station, and that the FCC could not stop him unless it “locked him up.” He then signed-on another station at 100.5 FM. Digging deeper, agents also discovered that Barnes had uploaded over 30 videos to his Facebook account admitting he ran a pirate station."
The FCC justified the massive fine, saying his actions had been "intentional." They did not say what format or content he was broadcasting. They also did not reveal what size transmitter he was using.
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Gallery Credit: Liz Barrett Foster