53 Guild Prac. 207 (1996)
Micro Radio vs. the FCC: The Case of Stephen Dunifer and Free Radio Berkeley

handle is hein.journals/guild53 and id is 218 raw text is: ALAN KORN
MICRO RADIO vs. THE FCC:
THE CASE OF STEPHEN DUNIFER
AND FREE RADIO BERKELEY
In a special issue of The Nation dated June 3, 1996, Mark Crispin
Miller of John Hopkins University analyzes the increasing
corporatization of the United States communications and entertain-
ment media.' Criticizing what he calls the national entertainment
state, Professor Miller argues that the time has come to enforce anti-
trust laws in order to free the media from increasing monopolization.
One remedy cited by Miller is a possible class action lawsuit against
the FCC for its failure to promote the public interest. In fact, a legal
challenge is currently pending in Federal District Court that raises
many of the same arguments cited by Professor Miller.2 This land-
mark case pits Stephen Dunifer and his micro power station Free
Radio Berkeley against the FCC, which brought suit in 1994 to en-
join Dunifer's unlicensed broadcasts. At issue is whether FCC regu-
lations prohibiting FM broadcasts of less than 100 watts violate the
First and Fifth Amendments by preventing politically and economi-
cally disenfranchised groups, along with ethnic and religious minori-
ties, from gaining access to the airwaves.
What is Micro Radio?
Micro radio is a low-cost, low power method of FM broadcasting.
Micro radio stations transmit at 1 to 40 watts and have a broadcast ra-
dius of 1- 1/2 to 5 miles depending on terrain and other factors. Propo-
nents argue that micro radio is easy to operate, affordable and easily
accessible to disenfranchised groups ignored by demographic-driven,
high watt commercial and public radio. In 1978, the FCC issued a ruling
which eliminated low power FM stations from the airwaves.
Alan Korn (aakorn@igc.org) is a Guild Member and an attorney practicing
art, entertainment and media law with the Bay Area firm of Bogatin, Berchenko
& Corman. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the Lawyers Guild's
Committee on Democratic Communications, and serves as amicus counsel in
the Dunifer case on behalf of the Guild, Media Alliance and the Womens'
International News Gathering Services (WINGS).

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