Archive for Wednesday, November 12, 1997


November 12, 1997


A volunteer for the Lawrence "micro-broadcasting" station on Monday hand-delivered a formal response, letters of support and a petition.

The question remains: is this Radio Free Lawrence?

The debate began last month when Federal Communications Commission officials warned KAW Radio (88.9 FM), a not-for-profit community radio station, that it was operating illegally without a license.

On Monday, KAW volunteer Rich Wenzel delivered to the FCC office in Kansas City, Mo., a formal response letter, a petition with 500 signatures and almost 100 letters of support. The letter, among other things, stated that a refusal to license low-powered radio is unconstitutional.

KAW has applied for a waiver from FCC regulations that prohibit low-power broadcasting.

The next step was not known Monday, but the issue of determination was far from uncertain.

"We're in it for the distance," said Dennis "Boog" Highberger, attorney for KAW-FM Radio.

On Oct. 9, a written warning was left at Liberty Hall, 644 Mass., stating that an unlicensed radio station was operating inside the building.

Highberger responded to the warning in a letter that, in part, cited a federal case involving Radio Free Berkeley, a similar broadcasting outfit in California. The station -- through a federal judge's decision -- evaded an injunction that would have shut it down.

In a letter dated Oct. 30, the FCC gave KAW volunteer Steve Stemmerman 10 days to formally respond to allegations that he was operating a station without a license.

FCC officials then spent part of Nov. 4 inspecting the station, which operates out of the basement of Liberty Hall and has a 10-watt transmitter covering a five-mile-square area.

The FCC only licenses stations with at least 100 watts of power.

Thus far, the FCC has not revealed its planned course of action. Magalie Salas, acting chief of the FCC's compliance division in Washington, D.C., could not be reached Monday for comment.

A similar situation in Grover Beach, Calif., involving a station called "Excellent Radio," resulted in the same type of FCC warning but no official action. That was more than two years ago. Highberger said he knew of no regulated time frame for a response or action.

The FCC could now schedule a hearing or issue a notice of "apparent liability," which would state its intent to assess a fine. The FCC could also request that a U.S. attorney take the matter before a federal judge and seek an injunction against further broadcasting, or order a seizure of equipment.

"They could issue a notice of apparent liability tomorrow, or we could never hear from them again," Highberger said. "It's entirely up in the air as far as I can see."

Late last week, FCC officials raided an unlicensed Kansas City Hispanic radio station and seized all of the equipment. The operator of the station could face up to $100,000 in fines and time in prison.

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