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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Court rejects S.F. pirate radio station's appeal

From KPIX-TV San Francisco:
A small unlicensed radio station's challenge to the seizure of its equipment by federal officials in 2003 was rejected by a U.S. appeals court in San Francisco Wednesday.

San Francisco Liberation Radio was shut down when agents of the Federal Communications Commission raided its studio in a home in the city in October 2003 and seized its equipment without notice.

The unlicensed station had been operating on 100 watts of power for 11 years. Since then, the station has been broadcasting via streaming on the Internet. The group challenged the seizure, arguing that it had constitutional rights to notice and a hearing before its equipment was confiscated. Its appeal was based on the First Amendment right of free speech and the Fifth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures.

But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said those rights didn't apply because the unlicensed broadcasting was illegal. The court said, "Neither broadcasters nor listeners have a First Amendment right to engage in or listen to unlicensed broadcasts." The court also said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that notice and hearings before a seizure are not needed if the action serves an important government interest and is carried out by government officials. The station's lawyer, Mark Vermeulen, of San Francisco, was not immediately available for comment.

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