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Old News — Lawmaker wants Oklahoma to be a haven for unlicensed radio

My apologies to Radio Survivor readers for my massive oversight on this story. Apparently I’m unable to either know what year it is now, or read the dates on the sources I’m using. The bill I cited in this post–AND the Oklahoma Watchdog article about it–is a year old, from January 2010, not January 2011. See John Anderson’s reportage and excellent analysis on it at… from February 2010.

If you’re interested in my stale take on old news, then read on….

The states’ rights argument supporting unlicensed broadcasting is one that bubbles to the surface every so often, typically coming from broadcasters associated with right-wing political stances. The line of reasoning goes that the federal government only has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and the 10th amendment to the Constitution guarantees to the states all other regulatory powers. Therefore, the states’ rights argument concludes the Federal Communications Commission may only regulate radio signals that cross state lines. To date, this argument has not been successful in any court challenges to the Commission’s authority.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t seem to be stopping Oklahoma state Representative Charles Key who is sponsoring House Bill 2812 (link to .rtf file of bill text) known as the “Communications Freedom Act.” If signed into law, the bill would declare noncommercial broadcasts originating within the state to be “not subject to federal law or federal regulation.” To qualify the transmissions would have to be “not intended to be involved in interstate commerce, nor to have any affect upon interstate commerce.”

Oklahoma Rep Charles KeyThe Oklahoma Watchdog contacted Rep. Key, a Republican, and reports that,

he suspects the federal government doesn’t like the “free speech aspect” of low-power FM radio and may view it as a threat.

“The federal government is out of control. It’s violated its role in regards to the Constitution. The government has become a predator of sorts and it’s become a law until itself.”

I do find it curious that the introduction of this bill comes after the passage of Local Community Radio Act, which significantly increases the opportunity for more low-power FM stations nationwide. Nevertheless, I guess if you’re suspicious of the FCC’s intentions and ability to regulate radio broadcasting, you’re not going to trust the agency in licensing new LPFM stations.

Rep. Key seems to have quite the infatuation with the 10th amendment and states’ rights. He garnered national attention in 2009 when he sponsored a bill that reasserted the sovereignty of the state of Oklahoma under the 10th amendment. That bill passed both the state House and Senate, but was vetoed by former Governor Brad Henry, a Democrat.

So it would seem that the Communications Freedom Act is an attempt to pick away at a particular federal power that Key might have expected to be abolished under his sovereignty bill. I don’t know nearly enough about Oklahoma politics to be able to guess if the Communications Freedom Act has any chance of passage. I suspect that it’s one thing to support a bill that purports to simply reaffirm the 10th amendment but it’s another thing altogether to vote for a bill that specifically targets the FCC’s authority.

It is probably a little early yet for would-be pirate broadcasters to start warming up their transmitters. And even if the bill passes I don’t expect the FCC will sit idly by. Stay tuned.

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2 Responses to Old News — Lawmaker wants Oklahoma to be a haven for unlicensed radio

  1. John Anderson February 8, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Is this actually the same story from a year ago? I ask because the bill (and the article) are from 2010….

  2. Paul Riismandel February 8, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Uh, yeah. Apparently I don’t know what year it is. Correction on it’s way.

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