Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler is at the National Association of Broadcasters NAB show in Las Vegas and just gave a talk at which he told the suits that although the FCC wants to streamline its field office system, that doesn’t mean the agency won’t crack down on unlicensed broadcasters when necessary. Indeed, “flying teams” are standing by to “descend” on the problem.
“I recognize your concern that we may somehow be signaling a decrease in our interference protection, pirate radio enforcement, or other activities important to broadcasters,” Wheeler explained. “Let me assure you that is not the case and we want to work with you to make sure that broadcasters are fully protected.”
Here’s the issue, Wheeler continued, a lot of the information FCC field officers (see Enforcement Bureau) collect is now done electronically. And keeping too many regional offices open costs too much money. “The agents from 24 offices go to where the problem is – just as the agents from eight offices will do.”
“I am used to people complaining about government inefficiencies,” the bemused Chair confided. “It is a new experience, however, to hear complaints to maintain the inefficiencies.”
But not to worry, Wheeler concluded:
“I want to emphasize that this is not a diminution of our pirate radio efforts. In fact, with more agents in Miami and New York City, as this plan provides, there will be more boots on the ground in the areas of greatest challenge. When concerns arise elsewhere, flying teams will descend on that market. And, by the way, under the new plan all FCC field staff will have electrical engineering backgrounds.”
The FCC’s Chair might have added that the agency is now licensing hundreds of Low Power FM radio stations across the country, offering many cities and regions a legal alternative to unlicensed operation. But given the NAB’s staunch opposition to LPFM, it’s probably best that he skipped the matter.