FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly doesn’t seem to be getting the kind of publicity he hoped for after taking a hyperlocal news outlet in a suburb of Boulder, Colorado to task for reporting on the existence of a pirate radio station there. The Longmont Observer ran a short piece back in December noting the existence of Green Light Radio, the FCC’s protocol for shutting such stations down, and ending with the statement, “In the meantime, enjoy Longmont’s pirate station while it lasts.”
This stuck in O’Rielly’s craw so badly that he penned a letter to the editor of the Observer admonishing it for providing “tacit support” to an unlicensed broadcaster. In O’Rielly’s mind, the Observer’s journalists should have acted as freelance FCC agents and not only reported the station to the agency’s field office in Denver, but encouraged readers to not listen to “KGLR,” due to the supposed “harm” it would cause.
A follow-up article in the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper (and its Longmont affiliate, the Times-Call) seems to suggest that Coloradans don’t appreciate O’Rielly’s scolding. According to Brooke Ericson, O’Rielly’s chief of staff (who, incidentally, has been in the job for less than four months and most likely ghost-wrote the letter to the Observer to score points with her new boss), this was “the first article (he) has come across that appeared to actively promote this illegal activity,” and thus justified a response. Continue reading “Coloradans Push Back Against Anti-Pirate Bullying”
Larry Bloch, a founding member of radio free brattleboro, died last month of pancreatic cancer. He was 59.
Bloch was one of those rare and lucky folks for whom activism was a full-time vocation. After working with Greenpeace throughout the 1980s, he created the Wetlands Preserve in New York City in 1989. The nightclub became a magnet for many bands that rose to fame out of the “alternative” music soup of the 1990s. Continue reading “Larry Bloch: 1953-2012”
The 12-page ruling that came down earlier this spring, forbidding the station from taking to the air ever again, was only written after U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha extended rfb and the FCC a chance to negotiate some sort of amicable settlement. rfb proposed powering down in exchange for the FCC giving Vermont Earthworks expedited consideration of its LPFM application. The FCC refused (though the organization was awarded the right to build WVEW-LP anyway) and went to another federal court for a warrant to raid the station.
With a settlement thus impossible, Murtha had to make a ruling. So he did, and it pretty much tracked with my initial suspicions. He noted that rfb was statutorily barred from receiving an LPFM license; he employed the “jurisdictional wiggle”* to sidestep and otherwise ignore rfb’s constitutional challenges to the FCC licensing regime. He also denied rfb’s call for sanctions against the FCC for double-dipping the legal system in order to take the station off the air. The station had been fairly warned that a raid might be in the cards, and there’s no rule that limits the number of enforcement tools the FCC can employ at any given time. In these respects the decision falls on the unremarkable pile. Continue reading “Radio Free Brattleboro Decision Analysis”
A short story reports that J. Garvan Murtha, the federal judge overseeing the FCC’s original case against the station, ruled in the FCC’s favor on March 31. The ruling contains a “John and Mary Doe” clause, which basically calls for a blanket ban on any unlicensed broadcasting within the community of Brattleboro.
Unfortunately, the story says nothing about the judge’s rationale. It does, however, quote station lawyer James Maxwell as saying that the station’s tactic of mustering community support for an alternate “authority to broadcast” is still valid: “The basic argument that a town gave an entity permission to broadcast still exists. That argument is still useable by other stations.” Continue reading “Federal Judge Disses Radio Free Brattleboro”
When the FCC was denied an injunction against radio free brattleboro in March of 2004, Federal District Judge J. Garvan Murtha suggested the agency and station enter into talks to try to figure out a compromise whereby rfb might broadcast legally. Instead the FCC went to a Federal Magistrate and got a warrant to execute a station raid in June of 2005. Instead of playing ball with rfb, the FCC went and found a friendlier court. Justice in action?
This week radio free brattleboro’s attorney formally announced the collapse of all dialogue, as civil actions still wend their way through two courts in Vermont. Continue reading “rfb v. FCC In Stasis”
More newspapers now have articles on the raid of radio free brattleboro, and V-Man has an interview with station co-founder Larry Bloch. It sounds like the station is still absorbing the shock of the raid, especially since it was conducted during a time when the station was automated, thereby avoiding the outright conflict most raids cause. (FCC agents have already had one run-in with Brattleboro citizens before, which they didn’t seem to enjoy.)
The government estimates it stole about $15,000 worth of gear; the station had no backup cache. If I remember correctly rfb runs on a pretty involved consensus model, which means a rebound might take some time. Continue reading “Press Review: RFB Follow-up and The Power of God(casting)”
An early-morning raid today backed by Federal Marshals has rfb off the air. The FCC had secured a warrant for arrest of the transmitter and associated gear “from a Burlington magistrate,” which means it did not come from the Brattleboro-based judge hearing the station’s case. Surprisingly, they actually left some gear behind (not much, but it wasn’t a complete scouring).
This is a highly unusual move as the FCC has typically let any court proceedings play out before attempting another enforcement tack. In fact, the station’s reaction to the raid notes that it had dropped its own attempt to secure an injunction against the FCC because of assurances that the agency would keep the dispute in the realm of the courts. Apparently a lack of patience caused the agency to renege. Continue reading “FCC Raids radio free brattleboro”
According to this article in the Brattleboro Reformer, the FCC spent the last 15 months ignoring judge J. Garvan Murtha’s concerns about the lack of local access to the airwaves. That’s why he denied the agency’s request for a temporary injunction against rfb in the first place.
Instead, the best assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Drescher can come up with, apparently, is “we don’t give out licenses to 10-watt stations, therefore radio free brattleboro must not broadcast.” Which is not exactly true: the FCC’s LPFM service contains a provision for so-called “LP-10” stations that would broadcast with 10 watts or less, but it has never solicited applications for LP-10 stations. How can a station acquire a license the FCC maintains on its books but refuses to issue? Continue reading “FCC Seeks Summary Judgment in radio free brattleboro Case”
A hearing was held today on the FCC’s motion for an injunction to silence radio free brattleboro.
The FCC argued that broadcasting without a license is against the law. radio free brattleboro’s attorneys pointed to the incredible amount of local support and the fact that (as of now) the FCC offers no licenses to FM radio stations of 10 watts or less.
Judge J. Garvan Murtha was apparently influenced by the strong community support for and logic behind the station’s concerns. He denied the FCC’s motion for an injunction and – similar to the FCC v. (Stephen) Dunifer case of the mid-90s – asked both sides for further briefs. Those are due in 45 days. Continue reading “FCC Stymied in Brattleboro Court”
Voters in Brattleboro, VT went to the polls on March 2 and by a margin of nearly two to one voted to support their microradio station in its struggle for “official legitimacy.”
For what it’s worth, the local paper ended up endorsing the station, too. The court activity is still at the tentative stage, each side having filed papers asking a federal judge to shut the other up. Continue reading “radio free brattleboro Wins Symbolic Community Endorsement; Gilligan Goes LPFM”