Micropowered radio war escalates
Hyper X, Free Radio Gainesville
Almost as soon as the Nov/Dec  Iguana hit the streets, United States District Court Judge Claudia Wilken rejected another attempt by the Federal Communications Commission to silence Berkeley Micro Radio Broadcaster Stephen Dunifer, founder of Free Radio Berkeley.
Court Sides with Free Radio Berkeley
In a 13-page opinion released on November 12, 1997, Judge Wilken once again rejected the government's motion for an injunction to silence micro radio broadcasts by the local radio pioneer.
In 1995, Judge Wilken rejected the government's first motion for a preliminary injunction against Dunifer's broadcasts. At that time the Court found merit in Dunifer's argument that the FCC's ban on low power, affordable FM broadcasting was a violation of the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech to all in the United States.
FCC Shuts Down 3 Tampa Stations
However, one week after Federal Judge Claudia Wilken refused to grant the FCC a permanent injunction to shut down Free Radio Berkeley and ordered the FCC to respond to specific Constitutional questions, the response came not in the form of legal briefs, as requested, but in the form of a SWAT team busting down the door of Tampa, Florida micropower broadcaster Doug Brewer.
At 6 a.m. Wednesday, November 19, Doug Brewer and his wife were visited in their home by a 20-person Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force (comprised of Federal Marshals, a SWAT team, local police, customs, and a self-identified CIA agent) led by the FCC. With automatic weapons trained on them they were ordered to the floor where they were handcuffed face down with gun muzzles at their heads.
For the next 12 hours they were detained in their own home while agents stripped their house of anything remotely related to radio transmission equipment. Police cordoned off the block around Brewer's house, the site of the micropower broadcasting station, and brought in a crane to dismantle Brewer's broadcasting tower.
At the same time other members of the same task force were busy shutting down two more micropower broadcasting stations in the Tampa area. One man, Loni Kobres, was taken to jail and not released until he signed papers agreeing not to take any action to recover equipment which had been seized. Radio X had its equipment seized as well with one of its members spending a brief time in jail.
Commenting on this latest development, Stephen Dunifer of Free Radio Berkeley, said: "This certainly shows that the FCC has nothing but contempt for due process and the Bill of Rights. It is clear that the FCC is carrying out its marching orders given to it earlier this year by the National Association of Broadcasters who have begun a search and destroy campaign against micropower broadcasting."
Micropowered Radio Operators Fight Back
Speaking for SF Liberation Radio Richard Edmondson stated: "The raid against Doug Brewer and other microbroadcasters in Florida, coming as it has just a week after the Federal Court ruling in California, is a display of lawless thuggery which demonstrates to me more clearly than ever that the U.S. Government does not care about its own courts, its own laws, or its own Constitution." In response to this latest attack on micropower broadcasting Bay Area micropower broadcasters held a press conference and Free Speech support demonstration at the Oakland Federal Building. Simultaneously, a demonstration was organized outside of the FCC branch office in Tampa, FL.
According to the operator of one of the busted stations, 87X, more than 100 people showed up at the Tampa office of the FCC to protest their excessive use of force closing the Tampa microbroadcasters.
Late in December 1997, the FCC submitted a court ordered brief on the issues raised in the November decision. In a fine example of Catch 22ism, the FCC argued in court that a citizen cannot claim the FCC has denied his right to broadcast because he has not applied for a license which the FCC has refused to issue.
Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, the FCC has appealed Judge Wilken's ruling by claiming that Dunifer has no free speech claim because he did not apply for the license they will not issue--an argument Dunifer claims is simply a diversion.
"They never respond in a substantive manner," he says, describing the FCC legal team as "hacks who were formerly lobbyists for the broadcast industry." He points out that the new chair of the FCC was formerly a lobbyist for the NAB, and will offer a transcript of an April NAB conference that details its opposition to microbroadcasting.
The FCC reply also claims Wilken's court has no jurisdiction over FCC rules. But the agency itself recently brought a similar case to a district court in Arizona, and had no quarrel when it ruled in the FCC's favor.
This report was compiled from internet sources including the Mid-Atlantic Infoshop News Kiosk (http://burn.ucsd.edu/~mai/news.html).
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