Stung twice in California by the cities of San Francisco and Santa Cruz, who like their microradio stations unlicensed, thank you very much, the FCC shifts focus and moves on two stations in Vermont.
Radio Free Brattleboro, who just returned to the air two weeks ago after a visit from field agents, got an FCC follow-up yesterday. None of the station DJs actually spoke face-to-face with them; two strained yet cordial conversations were conducted through a locked door.
The first time the agents asked to enter and inspect the station they were prompted to show a warrant. The FCC duo responded by asking to see RFB’s authority to broadcast. Someone inside shot back: “the people of Brattleboro had authorized us to do so.”
After a stroll over to the Brattleboro police department, the FCC agents came back to the door with an officer in tow. Again they were refused entry. After shoving some papers through the door’s mail slot, the agents and officer left. The Brattleboro Reformer reports the agents promised to come back in 10 days and conduct a raid; the station is still assessing its options and its local attorney seems rarin’ to go to court.
Not only were the encounters broadcast live (and most of the aircheck taped), but the broadcast itself attracted concerned citizens to come to the station. Some of them also taped the encounter and used their cell phones to feed the station updates on the FCC agents’ exact whereabouts and behavior. As they began walking back to their car, some shouted at the agents, “Shame! Shame on you. Go home, we don’t want you here. What you’re doing is Un-American..”
The day before, agents bypassed Brattleboro and headed about 150 miles north-northwest, where they paid a visit to Free Radio Burlington. Here they convinced two Burlington cops to invoke probable cause to enter the building where they thought the station was located.
Curiously, Free Radio Burlington was off the air at the time, and according to a statement issued by the FRB collective, “no broadcasting equipment was found on site at the time of the inspection.” Nevertheless, somehow a group of “concerned listeners” found out about the raid-gone-bust and showed up to harass the FCC and cops anyway. Free Radio Burlington plans to stay off the air for the time being but will continue webcasting.
Back in Brattleboro reaction has been swift: in addition to the straight-news coverage of the FCC showdown, the Reformer’s editorial today sounds similarly defiant:
“The FCC doesn’t want to hear arguments that its rules make no sense, that its actions are absurd and its professed support of community radio is a sham. It wants to use the strong arm of the law at its disposal to crush dissenting voices, however small and seemingly insignificant.”
“But this is not what the people want. More than 2,000 area residents have signed petitions in support of rfb, and it’s time for those who agree that this is a battle for free speech to raise their voices, too. In San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors recently unanimously passed a resolution in support of Liberation Radio 93.7 FM, an unlicensed low-power station of 10 years standing under threat of FCC closure. The board urged the FCC and local law enforcement not to interfere with the functioning of Liberation Radio and “and other diverse local media.”
“Whether such an action has more than symbolic value remains to be seen. But even a symbolic protest is better than none at all. The Brattleboro Selectboard should follow the supervisors’ example and bring the matter up for discussion and a vote as soon as possible. And Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., among the most outspoken critics of the FCC when it comes to corporate control of the media, has been oddly silent on this issue so far. Our congressman, too, might consider putting his money where his mouth is.”
Radio Free Brattleboro’s morning show read the piece on-air and used it as a jumping-off point for several rebellious rants, criticizing the FCC for spending its energy busting its 10-watt ass while another mega-media merger looms just around the corner.
On the West Coast, Skidmark Bob managed to tape the Santa Cruz City Council’s unanimous approval (MP3, 15:54, 5.4 MB) of a resolution asking the FCC to leave Freak Radio be, and V-Man has supplied the text.
V-Man also tells me he and Dick Jenkins, president of K-LOVE (subsidiary network of Christian translator-monger EMF Broadcasting), will debate live on KUSP’s “Talk of the Bay” on Monday. If you’ve got any ammo for V-Man, do drop him a line.
This could be a lively discussion: Another EMF translator network just threw up a node near Santa Cruz – on Freak Radio’s frequency, 96.3. The new godcaster is blotting out part of FRSC’s coverage area as a result.