Pirate radio operators get reprieve as FCC braces for impending shutdown

The Federal Communications Commission said most of its operations will be suspended by the end of the week as lawmakers continue a standoff with the president over federal funding initiatives.

In a public notice distributed on Wednesday, the FCC said most of its operations would suspend by mid-day Thursday. Agency employees have until then to formulate and implement a plan that allows for an orderly cessation of operations.

Certain aspects of the FCC, including the agency’s work on radio spectrum auctions and the Office of Inspector General, will continue to function throughout the shutdown. Proceeds reaped from the sale of radio spectrum through several auctions fund that aspect of the FCC’s operations, the public notice said.

The FCC has not yet released its orderly shutdown plan, but a previous plan distributed in September 2018 and reviewed by The Desk showed most of its operations will stop after Thursday.

“During such a shutdown all FCC activities will cease other than those immediately necessary for the protection of life or property, performing other excepted activities or those funded through a source other than lapsed appropriations,” the plan said. “Consumer complaint and inquiry phone lines cannot be answered; consumer protection and local competition enforcement must cease; licensing services, including broadcast, wireless, and wireline, must cease; management of radio spectrum and the creation of new opportunities for competitive technologies and services for the American public must be suspended; and equipment authorizations, including those bringing new electronic devices to American consumers, cannot be provided.”

The agency’s Enforcement Bureau, which acts as the legal watchdog arm of the FCC, will be among those divisions forced to suspend operations. The shutdown of the Enforcement Bureau means broadcasters who operate unlicensed “pirate” services won’t be investigated until the agency is able to resume normal operations.