Coloradans Push Back Against Anti-Pirate Bullying

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly doesn’t seem to be getting the kind of publicity he hoped for after taking a hyperlocal news outlet in a suburb of Boulder, Colorado to task for reporting on the existence of a pirate radio station there. The Longmont Observer ran a short piece back in December noting the existence of Green Light Radio, the FCC’s protocol for shutting such stations down, and ending with the statement, “In the meantime, enjoy Longmont’s pirate station while it lasts.”

This stuck in O’Rielly’s craw so badly that he penned a letter to the editor of the Observer admonishing it for providing “tacit support” to an unlicensed broadcaster. In O’Rielly’s mind, the Observer’s journalists should have acted as freelance FCC agents and not only reported the station to the agency’s field office in Denver, but encouraged readers to not listen to “KGLR,” due to the supposed “harm” it would cause.

A follow-up article in the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper (and its Longmont affiliate, the Times-Call) seems to suggest that Coloradans don’t appreciate O’Rielly’s scolding. According to Brooke Ericson, O’Rielly’s chief of staff (who, incidentally, has been in the job for less than four months and most likely ghost-wrote the letter to the Observer to score points with her new boss), this was “the first article (he) has come across that appeared to actively promote this illegal activity,” and thus justified a response. Read More

Larry Bloch: 1953-2012

Larry Bloch, a founding member of radio free brattleboro, died last month of pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

Bloch was one of those rare and lucky folks for whom activism was a full-time vocation. After working with Greenpeace throughout the 1980s, he created the Wetlands Preserve in New York City in 1989. The nightclub became a magnet for many bands that rose to fame out of the “alternative” music soup of the 1990s. Read More

Radio Free Brattleboro Decision Analysis

The 12-page ruling that came down earlier this spring, forbidding the station from taking to the air ever again, was only written after U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha extended rfb and the FCC a chance to negotiate some sort of amicable settlement. rfb proposed powering down in exchange for the FCC giving Vermont Earthworks expedited consideration of its LPFM application. The FCC refused (though the organization was awarded the right to build WVEW-LP anyway) and went to another federal court for a warrant to raid the station.

With a settlement thus impossible, Murtha had to make a ruling. So he did, and it pretty much tracked with my initial suspicions. He noted that rfb was statutorily barred from receiving an LPFM license; he employed the “jurisdictional wiggle”* to sidestep and otherwise ignore rfb’s constitutional challenges to the FCC licensing regime. He also denied rfb’s call for sanctions against the FCC for double-dipping the legal system in order to take the station off the air. The station had been fairly warned that a raid might be in the cards, and there’s no rule that limits the number of enforcement tools the FCC can employ at any given time. In these respects the decision falls on the unremarkable pile. Read More

Federal Judge Disses Radio Free Brattleboro

A short story reports that J. Garvan Murtha, the federal judge overseeing the FCC’s original case against the station, ruled in the FCC’s favor on March 31. The ruling contains a “John and Mary Doe” clause, which basically calls for a blanket ban on any unlicensed broadcasting within the community of Brattleboro.

Unfortunately, the story says nothing about the judge’s rationale. It does, however, quote station lawyer James Maxwell as saying that the station’s tactic of mustering community support for an alternate “authority to broadcast” is still valid: “The basic argument that a town gave an entity permission to broadcast still exists. That argument is still useable by other stations.” Read More

rfb v. FCC In Stasis

When the FCC was denied an injunction against radio free brattleboro in March of 2004, Federal District Judge J. Garvan Murtha suggested the agency and station enter into talks to try to figure out a compromise whereby rfb might broadcast legally. Instead the FCC went to a Federal Magistrate and got a warrant to execute a station raid in June of 2005. Instead of playing ball with rfb, the FCC went and found a friendlier court. Justice in action?

This week radio free brattleboro’s attorney formally announced the collapse of all dialogue, as civil actions still wend their way through two courts in Vermont. Read More