Judge reprieves Brattleboro radio station

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(Host) Brattleboro’s unlicensed community radio station won a reprieve in federal court on Monday. The court denied the Federal Communications Commission’s request to shut down Radio Free Brattleboro immediately.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) In a crowded Brattleboro courtroom U.S. District Judge J. Garvin Murtha denied the FCC’s request for a preliminary injunction. The injunction would have shut down Radio Free Brattleboro immediately.

Assistant U.S. Prosecutor David Kirby argued on behalf of the FCC. By operating without a license, Kirby said, the 10-watt, all-volunteer station was clearly breaking the law.

James Maxwell is Radio Free Brattleboro’s pro bono attorney. He argued that despite an FCC order creating a category for 10-watt licenses five years ago, no such licenses have yet been made available. In the absence of federal authority, Maxwell told the judge that the community authorized the station to exist.

(Maxwell) “And he allowed us to put on some evidence to indicate that, through the petitions and signatures and through the ballot initiative there is authority from the people of Brattleboro. And the judge at least thought that’s strong enough to ask for more.”

(Keese) Maxwell brought two witnesses to the stand, including Brattleboro Selectwoman Pat DeAngelo. She testified that the Brattleboro board had issued a resolution supporting RFB. Maxwell also used the recent Town Meeting Day vote affirming citizens’ support for RFB or any local station granting access to everyone. He said the station would love to have a 10-watt license.

(Maxwell) “That opportunity isn’t available to them. And so the option is not to serve the community or to serve the community and fight for a policy change. And that’s what we’re doing.”

(Keese) U.S. Attorney Kirby, who declined to comment for broadcast, says he’s disappointed by the ruling. But he’ll continue to pursue the FCC’s contention that the station is operating illegally.

The judge’s decision allows the station to continue broadcasting for at least two months while lawyers on both sides prepare further arguments.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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