Federal law generally prohibits radio broadcasts without a license issued by the FCC. Anyone found operating a radio station without FCC authorization can be subject to a variety of enforcement actions, including seizure of equipment, fines and other civil and criminal penalties.

Authorized exceptions

There are certain limited exceptions to this rule. Operation of Citizens Band (CB) radios, domestic ship and aircraft radios, radio control stations and certain other types of devices is allowed without obtaining individual station licenses. Use of these devices must not violate the FCC's operational and technical rules, however, or it could be considered an unauthorized radio operation. For further information, see the FCC's consumer guide Personal Radio Services for Keeping in Touch. If you are suspicious of or are aware of unauthorized radio operations, please notify the FCC.

Filing a complaint

Please notify the FCC if you are suspicious of or are aware of an unauthorized radio station operation:

You also have these options for filing a consumer complaint:

  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
  • By mail (please include your name, address, contact information, and as much detail about your complaint as possible):

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
45 L Street, NE
Washington, DC 20554

Printable Version

Unauthorized Radio Operation (pdf)


Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Thursday, January 14, 2021