Iowa pirate gets visit from the FCC, preemptively strikes in court charging a state of war allows for emergency autonomous broadcasting.
A representative from the Federal Communications Commission paid a visit to pirate radio DJs Jason Duncan and Matthew Britcher of Power 103.3, Tuesday afternoon, according to Mr. Duncan.
Mr. Duncan and Mr. Britcher have been operating the station since last week under an FCC code they believe warrants them operation without a license in times of war.
"He asked to see the studio but once we found out he didn't have a warrant, we said no," Mr. Duncan said.
They presented the FCC representative with a copy of the FCC's Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Section 3542: Application for emergency authorization. Mr. Duncan and Mr. Britcher believe the regulation, which grants an emergency broadcast on a temporary basis under extraordinary circumstances, such as the continuance of war, gives them the right to operate their station without a license.
"He said he'd never heard of it before and that he'd let their attorneys look at it, but he basically said it wasn't going to matter much to them," Mr. Duncan said.
Mr. Duncan and Mr. Britcher then were given a Notice of Unlicensed Radio Operation with the following reasons checked on the list:
Refusal to allow inspection of radio equipment; A lack of evidence of a proper FCC radio station license; Field measurements of Power 103.3's transmitter exceed the allowable limits for operating without a license.
Mr. Duncan said the FCC representative showed up about 2 p.m. and stayed for 45 minutes. Mr. Duncan was prepared for the visit and captured it all on videotape.
Mr. Duncan and Mr. Britcher hope to file a motion in federal court Wednesday, and are hoping to be granted an injunction on the basis of their First and Fourth Amendment rights and their freedom of speech. A motion guaranteeing the FCC cannot meet with a judge in a private court session, without Mr. Duncan or Mr. Britcher, also has been filed. Mr. Duncan estimates this "no seizure order" could buy them up to five or ten years on the air.
"If that doesn't work, we will probably move the station to buy more time," he added. "Then they have to start all over and come inspect that property and serve us another notice. We have back-up plans."
Mr. Duncan said it is unlikely either he or Mr. Britcher will serve any jail time, though the maximum penalty for operating a radio station without a license is a $10,000 fine and up to one year in jail. Mr. Duncan said he's researched it, and that in the numerous cases like his, only one person has ever served any time and it was only 9 months. Mr. Britcher said he is fully prepared to take this all the way, though Mr. Duncan has a family and said he'd have to step back if it goes that far.
In the meantime, Mr. Duncan said the community has overwhelmed them with hundreds of phone calls in support of their plight. In return, Power 103.3 is planning a listener-appreciation event at the end of May, tentatively scheduled at Middle Park, Bettendorf. The event will be free to the public and will include live bands, live broadcasting and Happy Joe's pizza. Mr. Duncan hopes the event will provide a good opportunity to educate people about their stand.
"We have the freedom of speech, but you have to pay $1 million dollars to speak it (on the radio)?" he asked. "It's a shame."
Power 103.3 can be reached at (309) 740-1650.