The U.S. microradio movement is all abuzz over the recent raid on Radio Free Cascadia - the 90-watt unlicensed station broadcast for three years in Eugene, Oregon, and some members of the station conducted a broadcast in Seattle during the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization.
On Thursday, March 15, FCC agents backed by 11 federal and local law enforcement officers paid an early-morning visit to RFC. Guns were drawn, a battering ram was employed, and when it was over the agents had confiscated the station's broadcast equipment and left Eugene with one less voice on the radio dial.
The RFC collective was quick to respond: "This was an obvious attack on free speech and autonomy," said a statement posted to the station's web site. "We will be back on the air!"
Radio Free Cascadia's demise has certainly been the most high-profile enforcement action so far of 2001, but it wasn't the first. At least one other station has been forcibly removed from the air by government officials and another half-dozen have had some sort of less-violent contact with the FCC.
Also this year, one person has already been locked up in connection with an unlicensed radio station: Mark A. Rabenold was arrested after federal agents attempted to serve him papers in connection with the station he ran in Oroville, Washington. Rabenold was chased down and taken into custody after he allegedly tried to run over a police officer with his car.
Rabenold disputes the charges; a trial date for his case has yet to be set.
If this trend continues, there should be more enforcement activity this year over last; whether it's due to an increased number of unlicensed stations on the air or to a higher priority placed on enforcement by the FCC remains to be seen.
As of now, though, it looks like the FCC has officially come out of its winter hibernation and agents are definitely back in the field on a nationwide basis.