License? Who needs a license?


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As a broadcaster, you operate your station under the guidelines of the FCC rules. We can all agree that there are certain shortcomings in the rules and the process that creates the rules, but for the most part they work pretty well.

Many believe that there is insufficient variety in the voices heard on the airwaves, so with good intentions (and a disregard for the laws of physics) LPFM was created by an act of Congress in 2000. The process to obtain an LPFM license follows a course of action similar to a full-power license.

The rules and procedures are in place to try to maintain harmony on the airwaves. But what if an individual decides that he wants to operate a station but does not want to obtain a license? The person becomes a pirate broadcaster and violates FCC rules. If the FCC learns of this pirate, it can take steps to shut the station down. If the pirate begins broadcasting again, he can and should be shut down again. Unfortunately, it doesn't work this way any more.

A pirate LPFM station in Goldfield, NV, operated by Rod Moses, has shown radio pirates how to circumvent the FCC rules. Moses' Radio Goldfield Broadcast operated a pirate station, was shut down by the FCC, and then found a senator to help him skip all the due process and obtain a special temporary authority (STA) to operate the pirate station. The pirate has been legalized.

I credit Moses for his ingenuity in getting what he wanted. In this case, he didn't like the rules so he found a way to write new ones. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada overstepped his authority and the FCC cowered and caved.

Sen. Reid contacted FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to endorse the Radio Goldfield operation, touting its public interest contributions. In response, the FCC issued the STA on Jan. 29, 2007, stating that the FCC can grant an STA in cases of “extraordinary circumstances requiring temporary authorizations in the public interest.” The public interest is served by Radio Goldfield's reports on road conditions, local law enforcement and public safety. Funny, the STA made no mention of the music being played from an MP3 player.

If Sen. Reid wants to change the allocation process, he should do so in the proper way so that it benefits all broadcasters and not just voters in his state. Likewise, if the FCC wants to change the rules to allow unallocated broadcasts, it has a mechanism in place to change its rules.

The act that created LPFM included a stipulation that any station that previously operated as a pirate station would be ineligible to obtain an LPFM license. Granted, Moses does not have an LPFM license — in fact he never applied for one — but the same standard should apply.

I also wonder if Moses is maintaining records so that he can pay the appropriate music licensing fees for the music he plays on the air.

Now that this is done, why should any pirate be concerned with the FCC rules? Just apply for the STA and state that the station serves the public interest. The end result is that an individual who violated FCC rules has been rewarded with a temporary license. This is a bad precedent any way you look at it.

I urge you to take action immediately. Send a protest letter to Chairman Kevin Martin and copy Peter Doyle, chief of the Audio Division at the Media Bureau. You can also file a petition for reconsideration. If you live in Nevada, I also encourage you to express your displeasure with Senator Reid.


Contacts

Kevin Martin
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
Room 8 B201
Washington, DC 20554

Peter Doyle
Chief, Audio Division, Media Bureau
Federal Communications Commission
Room A-360
Washington, DC 20554.

Senator Harry Reid
528 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510




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