Headlines from the 6-24-05 radioshow: FCC Busts rfb, Harasses BLR; Some CPB Funding Saved, but New Republican CEO

These are the news headlines as read on the June 24, 2005 edition of the mediageek radioshow: FCC Busts radio free brattleboro, Harasses Berkeley Liberation Radio; Some CPB Funding Saved, but New Republican CEO.

FCC Busts radio free brattleboro, Harasses Berkeley Liberation Radio

The FCC has been active again pursuing some high-profile unlicensed community radio stations.

On June 22, the FCC raided VermontÂ’s radio free brattleboro, a 10-watt station that has been on the air for X years. Aided by federal marshals the FCC confiscated nearly $15,000 of broadcasting and sound equipment early in the morning, before any staff were at the station.

The raid was especially unexpected because RFB and the Commission are currently embroiled in a legal battle in which a federal judge last year denied the FCCÂ’s request for a preliminary injunction to shut down the station.

The station had also filed an injunction against the FCC to stop the Commission from seizing its equipment. The station dropped that request due to receiving assurances from the government that,

“The FCC has chosen not to try to seize the equipment of rfb but to proceed by way of a preliminary injunction. Thus, there is no controversy about imminent seizure of equipment for this Court to remedy or enjoin.”

According to an RFB press release, in April the station received a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Burlington stating that the FCC was “prepared to pursue other law enforcement remedies.” Then on May 3, the FCC filed for a summary judgement against the station – a motion that has not yet been acted upon.

In a press release, RFB attorney James Maxwell, commented: “This is on one level no surprise. The FCC has run out of patience with the regular court process in Brattleboro and has gone elsewhere for the relief it seeks, namely, a chance to get the U.S. Marshals into the station to grab the equipment. Radio free brattleboro has a case with substantial and legitimate legal issues pending in the federal court here in Brattleboro, and the station has also applied to the FCC for a waiver to broadcast, and it has repeatedly stated that when the newly licensed 100-watt station is up and running it would step aside.”

In March 2004 Radio Free Brattleboro received support of nearly two-thirds of voters in an advisory ballot question that appeared on the town’s election ballot. The question asked voters to give the station “the authority to broadcast” until either the station receives a low-power FM license or another low-power FM community station is licensed to the city of Brattleboro.

According to the June 24 edition of the Brattleboro Reformer, Maxwell is planning to file a motion to hold the FCC in contempt of court for conducting the raid, and also to get the stationÂ’s equipment back.

Across the country in Berkeley, CA, the 6-year-old micropower community station Berkeley Liberation Radio received a notice from the FCC to stop broadcasting. The notice was issued on June 15 and the station has until June 27 to respond.
This is a second blow to the station within the last two months. In may BLR received an eviction notice indicating that the station would be forced out of its current location by June 30.

BLR first took to the air in 1999 not long after Stephen DuniferÂ’s Free Radio Berekeley was shut down following a protracted court battle wherein for a period of more than a year DuniferÂ’s station remained on the air and protected from the FCC by order of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The station has already been raided by the FCC and federal marshalÂ’s once, back in December 2002. All of the stationÂ’s equipment was seized in the raid, but BLRÂ’s volunteers were able to gather enough resources to return to the air just three weeks later.

BLR has been in its current location for 3 years and is actively seeking a new location to broadcast from.

Some CPB Funding Saved, but New Republican CEO

On June 23 Public Broadcasting viewers and listeners breathed a partial sign of relief. In a strong bilateral win of 284 to 140, the House voted to restore a threatened $100 million cut to the budget of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. However, just hours before the House vote, the CPB board of directors announced their decision to hire former Republican National Committee Co-Chair Patricia Harrison as the corporationÂ’s CEO.

The threatened cut originated with the House Appropriations Committee which eliminated subsidies for educational programs and technological upgrades, amounting to another $105 million.

Those subsidies were not restored by the June 23 House vote, and now that decision moves to the Senate, which is generally more favorable towards public broadcasting to begin with.

The resounding support to restore CPB funding in the House is being attributed to campaigns run by media reform and progressive political organizations like Free Press and Moveon.org, which encouraged supporters to flood their elected representatives with phone calls and emails. Public and community radio stations also got into the act, airing announcements asking listeners to contact their representatives with their feelings on the issue.

Among the House members that supported restoring CPB funding are Illinois representatives Tim Johnson, Ray LaHood and John Shimkus. IllinoisÂ’ Jerry Weller and IdahoÂ’s Butch Otter and Mike Simpson all voted against restoring the $100 million.

But with $105 million in funding still up in the air, and an extremely partisan administration heading the CPB, public broadcasting is still not out of the woods.

The CPBÂ’s new CEO most recently served as the State Department’s assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs, and in that post publicly supported the use of video news reels to promote Bush Administration policies. In a statement Harrison said that she looked forward to joining the public broadcasting community and pledged to help its supporters reverse an effort to slash more than $200 million from public broadcasting.

Public broadcasting supporters, Several CPB board members and a number of Democrats on Capitol Hill believe that Harrison’s previous stint as co-chair of the Republican National Committee makes her too partisan to lead CPB. Further, Harrison has no background in broadcasting.

She was the favored candidate of Kenneth Tomlinson, the Republican Chair of the CPB board who has come under intense fire for his recent efforts to try and “balance” public broadcasting, claiming that it has a liberal bias that requires the addition of more conservatively biased programming. Some Democratic lawmakers have also called for the removal of Tomlinson after it came to light that he had secretly hired an outside firm to investigate the PBS program NOW with Bill Moyers looking for instances of liberal bias.