FCC dissasembles Radio Free Brattleboro

Scott Fybush scott@fybush.com
Mon Jun 27 17:24:43 EDT 2005

>Maybe it's just me, but I have a problem with a government agency with
>legitimate enforcement powers being forced to explain itself every time
>they enforce the law against those who disobey it.  RFB has a lawyer,
>who has presumably explained to them the consequences of continuing to
>operate without a license (and if he hasn't, he should be fired).  They
>chose to go ahead regardless, and now they bitch and moan because the
>FCC's agents acted predicatably and within the law.  Moreover, RFB's
>supporters knew full well that RFB was transmitting without a license,
>and again they feign shock and horror over the perfectly predictable and
>lawful actions of the Enforcement Bureau.  Sorry, but it doesn't wash
>with me.

RFB and its lawyers are exercising their First Amendment right to showboat, 
and if it was good enough for Michael Jackson...well...

> >>As I alluded to in NERW today, the FCC hasn't helped matters by
>opening that misguided translator window (since frozen) last year.<<
>The blatant abuse of the translator licensing process has been an
>ongoing scandal for at least several decades, but because such a large
>percentage of the translator owners are religious organizations, nothing
>is going to be done about it and everyone knows it, especially under the
>current administration.

Even the current administration (much to my surprise) seems to have 
realized it went a little too far over the edge with last year's window. 
The impression I get is that the freeze that the FCC put down a month ago 
came as a shock to the satellator operators, as well it should have.

There's a very real 307(c) ("fair and equitable distribution of broadcast 
service") case to be made against the way the FCC handled translators vis a 
vis LPFMs, and I hope someone takes them on with it. But I digress...

>If the Commission had to answer every charge of "jack-booted thugs" or
>similar drivel every time they shut down a pirate, their press office
>would have no time for anything else.  There is copious material
>available on the web and elsewhere which explains the consequences of
>violating Section 301, so there's no really good excuse for not knowing.
>  Perhaps it's the generalized mistrust of government which, as you and
>others have pointed out, seems to pervade the state of Vermont, but just
>because they don't like it doesn't mean they get a free pass on it.

There's plenty of material out there explaining the CONSEQUENCES of 
violating Section 301. There's very little that explains the RATIONALE 
behind Section 301's existence.

If I turn on an average radio here in Rochester and tune to 90.9, I hear 
nothing. Absent the understanding of interference and propagation and 
broadcast regulation in general that most of us on the list have, why 
wouldn't I assume that the government is being less than pure of motive in 
telling me that I can't therefore use that slice of "the public airwaves" 
to broadcast? The "Vermont mentality," if we're calling it that, holds - 
not entirely without reason - that there are many such laws that really are 
just that irrational, many of which are ignored every day with little or no 
consequence. Why would broadcasting be any different, especially when the 
bottom line, for a significant number of people in Brattleboro, is that it 
appears that federal agents have just shut down a well-liked local station 
filling an otherwise unserved niche? These are intelligent (if sometimes 
misguided) people, for whom "because it's the law, and we say so" isn't - 
and shouldn't be - an adequate answer.

I don't think it's unreasonable, in that context, for someone - whether it 
be the FCC or licensed broadcasters themselves or what have you - to take 
an active role in the public dialogue and explain just why these rules 
aren't as irrational as they look.

Nowhere in the general-media discussion of RFB and its ilk has there been 
any talk about what would actually happen if RFB won its case and if FM 
broadcasts of less than 100 watts were deregulated. We know the answer (and 
those of us who are historians of the industry know what it sounded like 
the last time that happened), but Joe Public doesn't. Put that information 
in front of the citizens of Brattleboro, and RFB might look a little less 
heroic (especially since there's an LPFM CP waiting in the wings there to 
replace RFB anyway.)

Yes, the FCC press office might have to work, for a change. What, exactly, 
DO they do now? I don't see them winning any awards for public outreach 
there, and I've never had the respect for the press office that I do for 
the Media Bureau or the other parts of the commission where things actually 
get done.


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