Scene Report: California

While I may still be on partial hiatus, as the fall semester ends in its typical whirlwind of student-meetings, evaluations, and grading, life moves on. And I am pleased to report that the microradio movement is alive and well. I will be most interested to see just how the FCC wraps up this year’s “war on pirates” – when I finally find the time to digest the data.

Some heartening news comes from the old guard in California. Berkeley Liberation Radio, after suffering a government raid on its studio premises (not related to the station itself), has safely relocated and is kicking as usual. Across the Bay, San Francisco Liberation Radio has also been revived – the correspondence I received does not explicitly state that this return will include a frequency-modulated signal, but it leaves room for speculation: “Since our court case was resolutely rejected by the Ninth Circuit, SFLR dropped the legal proceedings but continued to stream internet radio. Now [a new crew] will continue in the long and storied tradition of SFLR in the South of Market area.” You can’t keep a good idea down. Read More

SFLR Loses Ninth Circuit Appeal

It only took two weeks for the Ninth Circuit to issue its decision regarding San Francisco Liberation Radio‘s challenge to its 2003 raid. The station basically argued that since it was in regular, cordial contact with the FCC throughout a near-decade on air, it should been extended the courtesy of a chance to convince the judge who signed the warrant why such a move was not justified. Additionally, because radio is essentially an “instrumentality of expression,” the gravity of station raids should be weighed in any court’s mind with respect to its potential to hinder that expression.

Two-thirds of the oral argument (30:27, 5.3 MB) was dominated by SFLR’s attorney, Mark Vermeulen. He started by emphasizing the station’s public recognition and willingness to engage the FCC. He was interrupted quite early by a judge (either William Fletcher or Richard Clifton, I don’t know which) who wanted to know why a station that was openly breaking the law deserved gentler treatment just because they were being open about it. Read More

FCC Creates Another LPFM Loophole, Courts to Consider a Third

Right at about the same time the FCC granted special temporary authority to a pirate station in Nevada to operate without a license, the agency told a group of irate listeners in Texas that they, too, could have a station if they wanted to.

How? Some 263 of them wrote letters to the FCC requesting it deny the transfer of KTPB-FM’s license from a community college to the Educational Media Foundation. The well-known godcaster will flip the station’s format from classical to one of its “alternative” offerings.

Seemingly impressed by the outpouring of support for classical music, thought the FCC denied the listeners’ objections to the license transfer it entertained the option of them applying for an LPFM station license in order to “fill any programming void left by the sale of the station to EMF and change in format that EMF may make.” Read More

Making Waves, Pirate Radio USA Screening in SF

A unique chance to see the two newest documentaries on U.S. microradio and LPFM, both will be shown this weekend at the 2006 Anti-Corporate Film Festival in San Francisco.

Pirate Radio USA is the last film on opening night, while Making Waves will be shown on Saturday afternoon. Waves producer Michael Lahey will be on hand for a Q-and-A afterward, tag-teaming with San Francisco Liberation Radio‘s Karoline Hatch.

Both films cover microradio from very different perspectives, so if you can catch both I’d highly recommend doing so.

Liberation Radio Loses Seizure Challenge, Plans Appeal

A somewhat skimpy story notes the ruling against SFLR‘s challenge came down on March 14. Alan Korn has graciously provided a copy. It’s grim reading: first and fourth amendment arguments are bounced, and District Court Judge Susan Ilston avoids the station’s direct challenge to FCC rules with the jurisdictional wiggle (“that issue belongs in D.C., not with me”).

The station’s attorney, Mark Vermeulen, hopes for better things at the Ninth Circuit: “Courts of Appeals have more leverage in establishing new precedents.” Yet the two most successful microbroadcast cases ever litigated, involving Free Radio Berkeley and Radio Free Brattleboro, scored their victories at the district court level. Read More