Court rules raid that shut 'pirate' radio station was legal
SAN FRANCISCO Court rules raid that shut 'pirate' radio station was legal Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Federal agents acted legally in raiding the Castro neighborhood office of San Francisco Liberation Radio in 2003 and seizing equipment that was used to run the unlicensed, low-power "pirate" FM station, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Liberation Radio was not entitled to advance notice or a hearing before the raid by federal marshals and Federal Communications Commission representatives.
The station had been denied a federal license and accused the agency of a politically motivated crackdown on so-called micro-broadcasters. Liberation Radio, which had broadcast music and "radical progressive'' politics on 93.7 FM for 10 years, was driven off the airwaves by the raid and now operates over the Internet.
"Neither broadcasters nor listeners have a First Amendment right to engage in or listen to unlicensed broadcasts,'' the three-judge panel said in Wednesday's ruling, rejecting the station's argument that seizure of broadcast equipment without a hearing violates free expression.
The court also said advance notice might have allowed owners to move, hide or destroy equipment that was legally subject to forfeiture. (snip/...)
And battery life versus weight would be a challenge, even if you were just radiating a (say) 5 watt signal. And solar cells are too expensive to throw away in this fashion while fuel cells might be considered a hazard in an uncontrolled re-entry to earth.
8. Unless the balloon suddenly popped, it would simply loose altitude, slowly, over several days
Once on the ground, the person who launched it could attempt to retrieve it using the same method the FCC would use to track it-- triangulate. Perhaps it could even include a separate tracker, like the ones they put in hobbyist model rockets?
It could also be equipped with a parachute, or a secondary "emergency" helium balloon that would slow descent in the event of "sudden buoyancy loss."
Another precaution could be to include a ballast balloon, partially filled with regular air or Nitrogen, to keep the balloon from flying too high.
The Balloon Radio Pirate would have an advantage in retrieving the transmitter that the FCC wouldn't-- they would know from where and when the balloon was launched, and should be able to better estimate its eventual landing spot.
4. Our excellent pirate station in San Diego got shut down recently too
FCC raided the private residence where the transmitter was located, seized equipment, and sent the landlord (who was not involved in the operation at all) a letter demanding payment of a $10,000 fine. He's retained an attorney and is fighting it.
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