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Most of the articles I read involving the FCC raiding a potential violator location and carting away the equipment has been for egregious long term violators who have “basically” stuck their finger in the FCC’s eye. We call them “pirate” radio stations. They run from several watts to hundreds of watts output and really don’t care if they interfere with anyone else or not. Their “life’s record player needle” is stuck on the free speech and emergency service aspect of community radio.
Most end up violating Section 302 of the Communications Act of 1934. Simply said the federal government has been charged with regulating and preserving the radio airwaves as a “public trust”.
And as such, these violators have no leg to stand on with free speech and emergency service with an unlicensed station.
Part 15 of the regs in concert with the rest of CFR 47 allows for the opportunity to freely express ones inner angst. And without procuring a license from the FCC.
The significant flies in the ointment, are the contradictory and in consistent rules which for all intents and purpose were written for garage door openers and wireless microphones. Community oriented low power broadcasting was never even in the back of the regulators minds when Part 15 was dreamed up. Most of the rules were a knee-jerk reaction to the quickly expanding development of “intentional” radiators including everything from garage door openers to wireless phones, WiFi routers to digital sampling systems. Part 15 low power broadcasting was thrown in there for grins and giggles because of the public outcry due to limited access to the public airways without a substantial monetary investment and the help of attorneys.
Low power FM has been an administrative nightmare and became reality when a small group of congressmen and senators got involved and threatened the FCC with a change in their funding.
My opinion is that Part 15 broadcasters need and deserve their own regulatory section. A section specifically dealing with the technical and public service issues facing the users of this service. A section supplying an even-handed approach to “legal” low power broadcasting. And at the same time, offering all parties with an interest in the public airways a realistic opportunity for legal redress without thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.
Specific realistic regs concerning measureable power levels, signal strength, signal purity, equipment certification, antenna design and service area without attorneys or expensive laboratory grade test equipment.
Implement these measures and watch the number of raids and violations decrease substantially. There will always be the crazy’s who just don’t get it and will maintain their right to operate their “pirate” radio facilities. The FCC could save time and money with these simple steps. Maybe with Michael Powell out the way and new members of the commission, we as Part 15 broadcasters can bring pressure to bear on Congress to make some regulatory changes. In the face of the natural disasters over the past few years, community radio stations have once again come to the front burner.
What do you think?