Life has not been kind to the microbroadcaster as of late - it's almost as if the radio industry is goading free radio fighters into a conflict when the two camps clash head-on next week in San Francisco.
First came word early this month that Micro Kind Radio, a microradio station in San Marcos, Texas - who's been on the air 24 hours a day seven days a week since 1997 - has been shut down due to a temporary federal court injunction.
This showdown was long in coming: more than two years ago, after unsuccessfully attempting to intimidate one of the founders of Micro Kind with an $11,000 fine, the FCC served Kind with a cease and desist order. The station responded by filing a lawsuit of its own claiming the FCC's licensing rules ran afoul of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Micro Kind's founders are no stranger to legal wrangling: in 1992, they successfully upheld the rights of alternative newspapers to distribute their publications on state-owned property, after Southwest Texas State University attempted to ban them from handing out copies of their Hays County Guardian on its campus in town.
The station also fended off a challenge by San Marcos city officials early on in its life, as the city tried to prosecute Joe Ptak for allegedly violating zoning ordinances (the radio studio is in his garage).
During a recent phone interview on Freak Radio Santa Cruz, Ptak will comply with the court order to shut down. He hopes that the gesture will work in the station's favor when they square off with the FCC in front of a federal judge on September 29.
"(The order to shut down) was a one-page fax...it's very unusual...we don't wanna piss (the judge) off any further...we're being optimistic in hopes that he will recognize our good-faith effort to comply with his order and he will give us a good-faith listening to our arguments and, hopefully, the Constitution will prevail," said Ptak.
In the interim, Kind staff might continue broadcasting on the 'net as they wait for their day in court. Ptak also says free radio stations nationwide need to stay the course - and stay on the air: "As we know it, Kind Radio is no longer in existence. However, there will be a spawn of Kind Radio in our local community and there are many people who are excited and are looking forward to doing that.
"We urge people to pursue access to the airwaves, in any way they feel it is appropriate. There are efforts talking about continuing non-licensed broadcasting in other forms in this area because they feel that the FCC's restrictions are too great. And there continue to be micropower broadcasts in Austin even today. And I think this is going to be a battle that each station is going to fight, hopefully down to the federal court district judge so that the judges get tired of dealing with them in all the different communities, that hopefully something will change."
Also on the Texas front, Canyon Lake Radio (which the Kind folks helped get back on the air after it was raided by the FCC last year) will also get its day in court - on the same day as Kind's hearing, in front of the same judge.
Canyon Lake Radio filed a lawsuit in July 1999 against the FCC, Department of Justice, Attorney General Janet Reno and other federal figureheads in response to its closedown. While it originally began as an offensive maneuver, the feds have apparently played good defense, and according to Canyon Lake Radio's David Huff:
"After a year of silence, the honorable Judge Fred Biery, who has, to date, had NOTHING to say about even the most basic things like Discovery, issued an order on the last day of August, 2000, ordering the plaintiffs, (us) to appear before him September 29, 2000 to determine if we're abiding by "the rules"...is there no such thing as a "Fair and Speedy Trial" in Federal Court?"