From firstname.lastname@example.org Sun Dec 26 17:17:15 1993
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1993 10:26:33 -0800
From: Marguerite and Luke Hiken
Subject: FCC Knocks
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE FCC KNOCKS ON YOUR DOOR
Produced by the Committee on Democratic Communications -- A
National Committee of the National Lawyers Guild
Address: Committee on Democratic Communications, One Sansome St.,
Ste. 900, San Francisco, CA, 94104, (415) 705-6464.
INTRODUCTION: RECLAIMING THE AIRWAVES!
Let a thousand transmitters bloom
by Stephen Dunifer, Free Radio Berkeley
Using inexpensive hand-built transmitters, micro-power
broadcasters such as Free Radio Berkeley and Black Liberation
Radio in Springfield, IL, are challenging the information
stranglehold imposed by the corporate media and enforced by
federal regulation. Micro-radio is a First Amendment challenge to
restrictive federal regulations which only favor those with money
Most communities are denied their own voice. Unless one has at
least $50,000 to start a 100 watt FM station, there is no way any
community without those resources can have a voice. Before 1980
it was possible to apply for and receive a 10 watt Class D
educational station license with very little money in the bank.
Thanks to an alliance of reactionary elements, who sought to
suppress voices outside the mainstream, and liberal elements such
as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (NPR), who sought to
establish more "professional" stations (translation: more likely
to be funded by corporate blood money laundered through
foundations), the FCC eliminated all 10 watt station licenses as
of 1980. This move prevented the 90% of the U.S. population who
do not have the monetary resources from having a voice on the FM
band; especially African Americans who are underrepresented in
the media by 600%.
If the airwaves were not dominated by the corporate media pirates,
there would be plenty of FM radio spectrum space available for all
to use. Even in the congested Bay Area FM radio spectrum, there
are quite a number of frequencies that would be appropriate for
low power (.5 to 10 watts) community broadcast operations.
Unfortunately, like so many other public resources such as old
growth forests, the air waves have been hijacked and polluted by
the corporate state in its relentless pursuit of profit and
control of all public resources.
In response, there is a growing movement of individuals and
communities who have set up micro-power (.5 to 10 watts)
broadcasting operations. Most notable of these is Black
Liberation Radio, which covers a housing project area in Illinois.
Black Liberation Radio has been under severe attack by both the
local police and federal agencies. Despite police and federal
harassment, Black Liberation Radio is on 24 hours a day offering
some of the finest programs to be found anywhere on almost no
Frightened by this growing movement, the FCC comes knocking at
doors, slapping fines ranging anywhere from $750 to $20,000. This
booklet is to help you deal with the FCC's tactics to stifle our
right to communicate with each other.
Just imagine the possibilities of having hundreds of micro-power
broadcasts like this across the country. Cost is not a problem
since a basic station can be put on the air for less than $200.
Soon, an inexpensive UHF TV transmitter design will be available
as well. With determination and purpose we can break the
stranglehold on the flow of cultural and artistic expression
information and ideas in this country.
WHEN THE FCC KNOCKS ON YOUR DOOR
NOTE: The following discussion assumes that you are not a
Q) If FCC agents knock on my door and say they want to talk with
me, do I have to answer their questions?
A: No. You have a right to say that you want a lawyer present
when and if you speak with them, and that if they will give you
their names, you will be back in touch with them. Unless you have
been licensed to broadcast, the FCC has no right to "inspect" your
Q) If they say they have a right to enter my house without a
warrant to see if I have broadcasting equipment, do I have to let
A: No. Under Section 303(n) of Title 47 U.S.C., the FCC has a
right to inspect any transmitting devices that must be licensed
under the Act. Nonetheless, they must have permission to enter
your home, or some other basis for entering beyond their mere
supervisorial powers. With proper notice, they do have a right to
inspect your communications devices. If they have given you
notice of a pending investigation, contact a lawyer immediately.
Q) If they have evidence that I am "illegally" broadcasting from
my home, can they enter anyway, even without a warrant or without
A: They will have to go to court to obtain a warrant to enter
your home. But, if they have probable cause to believe you are
currently engaging in illegal activities of any sort, they, with
the assistance of the local police, can enter your home without a
warrant to prevent those activities from continuing. Basically,
they need either a warrant, or probable cause to believe a crime
is going on at the time they are entering your home.
Q) If I do not cooperate with their investigation, and they
threaten to arrest me, or have me arrested, should I cooperate
A: If they have a legal basis for arresting you, it is very
likely that they will prosecute you regardless of what you say.
Therefore, what you say will only assist them in making a stronger
case against you. Do not speak to them without a lawyer there.
Q) If they have an arrest or a search warrant, should I let them
in my house?
A: Yes. Give them your name and address, and tell them that you
want to have your lawyer contacted immediately before you answer
any more questions. If you are arrested, you have a right to make
several telephone calls within 3 hours of booking.
Q) Other than an FCC fine for engaging in illegal transmissions,
what other risks do I take in engaging in micro-radio broadcasts.
A: Section 501 of the Act provides that violations of the Act can
result in the imposition of a $10,000 fine or by imprisonment for
a term not exceeding one year, or both. A second conviction
results in a potentially longer sentence. If you are prosecuted
under this section of the Act, and you are indigent (unable to
hire an attorney), the court will have to appoint one for you.
Q) Are there any other penalties that can be imposed upon me for
A: Under Section 510 of the Act, the FCC can attempt to have your
communicating equipment seized and forfeited for violation of the
requirements set forth in the Act. Once again, if they attempt to
do this, you will be given notice of action against you, and have
an opportunity to appear in court to fight the FCC's proposed
action. Realize, though, that they will try to keep your equipment
and any other property they can justify retaining until the
proceedings are completed. You have a right to seek return of
your property from the court at any time.
Q) If the FCC agents ask me if I knew I was engaged in illegal
activities, should I deny any knowledge of FCC laws or any illegal
A: No. You will have plenty of time to answer their accusations
after you have spoken with an attorney. It is a separate crime to
lie to law enforcement officials about material facts. Remain
Q) If I am considering broadcasting over micro-radio, is there
anything I can do ahead of time to minimize the liklihood of
A: Yes. Speak with an attorney before you are approached by law
enforcement to discuss the different aspects of FCC law. Arrange
ahead of time for someone to represent you when and if the
situation arises, so that you will already have prepared a
strategy of defense.
Q) What can I do if the FCC agents try to harass me by going to
my landlord, or some other source to apply pressure on me?
A: So long as there is no proof that you have violated the law,
you cannot be prosecuted or evicted. If there is evidence of
misconduct, you might have to defend yourself in court. Depending
upon what the FCC said or did, you might be able to raise a
defense involving selective prosecution or other equivalent
argument. If the conduct of the agents is clearly harassment,
rather than a proper investigation, you can file a complaint with
the F.C.C. or possibly a civil action against them.
Q) If I want to legally pursue FCC licensing for a new FM
station, what should I do?
A: It isn't the purpose of this Q and A sheet to advocate or
discourage non-licensed broadcast operations. A person cited by
the FCC for illegal broadcasting will find it virtually impossible
to later obtain permission to get a license. If you want to
pursue the licensing procedure, see the procedures set forth in
the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Part 73. The
application form (Form # 301 A) is extremely complicated, and
requires a filing fee of $2,030.00. If you want to contact the
FCC directly, call them at their Consumer Assistance and Small
Business Division, Room 254, 1919 N St. NW, Washington, D.C.
20554, tel (202) 632-7260. Don't bother to try this without
significant financial backing.