10-watt radio station with 2-mile radius causes ''irreparable harm to the United States''
For resources including rfb's legal filings go to www.rfb.fm
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Monday, March 8, 2004
RADIO FREE BRATTLEBORO WINS LOCAL AUTHORITY TO BROADCAST
Brattleboro, VT - A local ballot initiative asking town voters to grant "authority to broadcast" in lieu of a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) won nearly two thirds of the votes in last Tuesday's March 2nd election. The open-access radio free brattleboro (rfb) began broadcasting in July 1998 as an independent, all-volunteer, non-commercial community radio station.
The vote is an important milestone for rfb, a non-profit which utilizes 10 watts of power to cover an area with a radius about 2 miles from its broadcast location, all within the confines of the town of Brattleboro, Vermont. Spokesperson Larry Bloch stated "I hope that communities across the country will be inspired by the endorsement that rfb has received from voters here," in response to the vote.
The ballot question asked:
"Shall the voters of Brattleboro give to radio free brattleboro (rfb) authority to broadcast until such a time that a Low-Power FM license is issued to radio free brattleboro or to another non-profit, locally based community group which is prepared to offer to the Town of Brattleboro diverse, all-access, non-commercial, community radio?"
Radio free brattleboro has been threatened with shutdown by the FCC since June, 2003, when the FCC demanded that rfb show either a license or "authority to broadcast." Since the FCC has abandoned the 10-watt, Class "D" broadcast licensing classification and has thereby neglected its responsibility to facilitate access to the airwaves by purely local broadcasters, communities throughout the United States have been left with no choice for locally originated broadcasting but to act on their own.
In order to document its "authority to broadcast" as requested by the FCC, rfb spent the summer months of 2003 collecting over 2,000 petition signatures from Town residents who support rfb and uphold the station's right to broadcast. After a community forum in the Fall, the Brattleboro Selectboard passed a resolution further supporting the work of rfb and urging the FCC to work with the station to ensure that public access to the radio airwaves remains in Brattleboro. The FCC has yet to respond to either of two submissions made by the attorneys assisting radio free brattleboro, local lawyer Jim Maxwell and Larry Hildes of the Center for Democratic Communications, who responded to the FCC's letter asking for documentation.
Instead, in early January 2004, Maxwell received a letter from the United States attorney in Burlington, Vermont who demanded, on behalf of the FCC, that rfb cease broadcasting. Maxwell replied with a letter to the US Attorney seeking a common sense solution that would ensure the continuance of community radio in Brattleboro. Some weeks later, acting for the FCC, the US Attorney flatly refused any and all ideas and went on to threaten rfb with imminent legal action.
In February, Maxwell filed a complaint on behalf of rfb, asking the United States District Court to prevent the FCC from seizing the stations' equipment. A few days later, the U.S. Attorney filed a complaint on behalf of the FCC asking the court to order rfb to cease and desist broadcasting. The government's argument is that rfb's broadcasting causes irreparable harm to the United States. Rfb's argument is that the loss of this vital community service will cause irreparable harm to the people of Brattleboro. Attorney Maxwell said, "Rfb does not desire to spend its time litigating; it wants approval from the FCC for its local broadcasting—broadcasting that interferes with no other broadcaster and serves local needs. The FCC has permitted a rapid consolidation of mega-corporations who want to occupy the entire broadcast spectrum for profit, endangering free speech and inhibiting local access. It is outrageous that while the FCC aids and abets corporate greed, it spends taxpayer money to threaten and squash community radio. Who is in charge here? We need a change."
Radio free brattleboro has trained hundreds of local citizens in the art of radio broadcasting and the rights and responsibilities inherent to freedom of speech. Rfb remains committed to fostering an informed and engaged public by offering access to a diverse group of local residents, artists, community groups, and public officials. Rfb staff member Sara Longsmith added "Now, as the March 2nd vote resoundingly demonstrates, the residents of Brattleboro have reaffirmed the invaluable public service rfb provides to the community."