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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Quad City, Iowa microcasters challenging FCC

from Tom Roe:

Iowa microcaster "Power Hits 103.3-FM" continues its brazen, in-your-face challenge to the Federal Communication Commission's authority, arguing that Federal law allows emergency broadcasts in "times of war."

Rita Pearson in Quad Cities Online (see link, above), interviews the micro station's founders, Matthew Britcher, 28, and Jason Duncan, 26, who have already received a warning letter from the FCC, and are photographed in this latest story. They are running an open, mid-'90s-style campaign largely fueled by positive public opinion.

They are basing their time-of-war argument on title 47 part 73 section 3542 of the Code of Federal Regulations that says: "Authority may be granted, on a temporary basis, in extraordinary circumstances requiring emergency operation to serve the public interest. such situations include: emergencies involving danger to life and property; a national emergency proclaimed by the President or the Congress of the U.S.A and; the continuance of any war in which the United States is engaged, and where such action is necessary for the national defense or security or otherwise in furtherance of the war effort."

Britcher and Duncan are also making First Amendment arguments to stay on the air, and have hired an attorney, Arshia Javaherian of Rock Island. He describes the station's legal situation as "somewhat touch and go" as the duo await a response from the FCC. "They claim there is room on the public spectrum for broadcasting of their station, and that the denial of more broadcasting stations in the Illinois/Iowa Quad-Cities area is an infringement of their First Amendment rights," Mr. Javaherian wrote to the FCC.

The time-of-war or disaster argument has been made before (recently in New Orleans), but has never played out in court, which is where Britcher and Duncan would like to see it head. Preferably with a jury. The FCC won't let that happen, not after Stephen Dunifer spawned several thousand stations when a judge restrained the government from taking action against Free Radio Berkeley for 18 months. A judge will probably end up deciding this one too, and the Quad Cities are not Berkeley. So good luck there, fellas.

In the meantime, overt acts such as this "Power Hits" station may inspire a dozen or so others to take similar stands, and help show the need to pass the improved LPFM bill that is now stuck in Congress. Both the House and Senate Commerce Committees have passed measures to allow several hundred more LPFM stations around the country (after the National Association of Broadcasters interference complaints were debunked as blatantly false). If these bills do not create more community radio stations throughout this country, then there surely will be more civil disobedience on the airwaves.

Unfortunately, that's usually followed by a police state-style crackdown.

Read the full, not very well-written, story about the Iowa microcasters here:
http://qconline.com/archives/qco/sections.cgi?prcss=display&id=290082

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