For Immediate Release
For More Info Call Free Speech/ STR Hotline: 212. 358-5774
FREE SPEECH VS. THE FCC
Unlicensed Community Radio Station Returns to the Airwaves and Announces Lawsuit after Threatened with Raid
Members of "Steal This Radio," an unlicensed radio station in Lower Manhattan, will switch their transmitter ON at a public press conference at noon on Wednesday, April 15 at the George Washington statue at 26 Wall Street and Nassau. On the same day, FREE SPEECH will file a lawsuit against the FCC for violations of its constitutional rights.
In defense of First Amendment rights, an organization called FREE SPEECH, composed of members and listeners of STEAL THIS RADIO, is filing a suit against the FCC for violations of the First Amendment. "We want the world to know that the first amendment is not rhetorical, but real. We want the world to know that free speech and the FCC are at odds with one another, and if this country is still about democracy, that FREE SPEECH will win," says Robert Perry, the group's attorney.
On Thursday, March 5th, an agent of the FCC visited the neighborhood of STEAL THIS RADIO and threatened to raid the station with Federal Marshals if the station was not "brought into code," which means broadcasting no more than 200 feet. The agent claimed that he was responding to a signal interference complaint made by Hofstra University's radio station, WRHU. When WRHU was contacted to verify the FCC's claim, station manager Bruce Avery stated that no formal complaint had been made on behalf of the station, nor was he aware of any signal interference. Moreover, he said, the Lower East Side is not part of WRHU's "primary or secondary signal contour".
The FCC's move to shut down Steal this Radio is part of a nationwide crackdown on micropower radio in an attempt to silence community groups accessing the airwaves for non-commercial cultural, social, and civic purposes. Despite recent statements by FCC Chairman Kennard that express interest in diversifying the airwaves via micropower radio, and his concern over the increasing concentration of corporate ownership of radio stations, in practice the FCC has stepped up its attack on unlicensed stations.
The number of unlicensed radio stations has steadily increased since the FCC abolished the low-watt license category in 1978. More than 1,000 micro-broadcasting stations are currently on the air nationwide, and are active in a movement to enable community groups to access the publicly-owned airwaves without fear of harassment, fines or imprisonment. In solidarity with the movement, three stations which the FCC has recently harassed are going back on the air on April 15: Steal This Radio, Radio Free Allston in Allston, Massachusetts, and 87x in Tampa, Florida.
"Corporate consolidation trends in media have greatly narrowed the scope of what kind of news and music is available on the FM dial," said DJ Chrome. "As ever more New Yorkers become frustrated with this corporate homogenization, the need for community radio stations which reflect the diversity and culture of our neighborhoods increases. This is about civil rights, about a growing movement to challenge the injustice of the Federal government. The case is clear. This is about Free Speech versus the FCC."