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Retired Navy air traffic controller & unlicensed community broadcaster fined by the FCC

Albert Knighten is a retired Navy air traffic controller in Ft. Myers, Florida who was busted by local police for running an unlicensed radio station back in December. Now the FCC has caught up with him, too, issuing him a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) for $15,000 on Monday [PDF].

He was operating a community radio station called Dunbar Radio named for his Ft. Myers neighborhood. The station’s programming was geared for older residents who rely on the radio but aren’t being served by other stations in the area. Knighten even hosted local government officials for on-air discussions prior to being shut down.

The Commission says field agents first tracked down Knighten’s station on Dec. 1, 2011. On their second visit on Dec. 9 they were riding along with Ft. Myers police, which seems to be a common procedure now in Florida.

According to the FCC’s NAL, during that second visit

“(a)gents from the Tampa Office also inspected the unlicensed radio station located in the premises before the equipment was seized by local law enforcement. Mr. Knighten admitted to purchasing and installing the radio equipment, and claimed to be the sole person operating the unlicensed station from this location for over a month. The agents from the Tampa Office identified Mr. Knighten’s voice as the person broadcasting over the air on December 1 and 9, 2012, and also found a video available over the Internet showing Mr. Knighten being interviewed about the station. During the interview, Mr. Knighten discussed the station’s programming, encouraging interested listeners to tune in to the station, and acknowledged its unlicensed status.”

This is going to make it a little tough for Knighten to simply deny he’s behind the station. However, he still has the option to ask for a lighter fine or try his luck at running out the clock on the statute of limitations by filing administrative appeals. It did take the Commission more than half a year to issue this notice in the first place.

Knighten has already dealt with local authorities. After being arrested he crossed them when he missed his arraignment hearing in order to appear on a panel about civil rights and broadcasting in Washington. In April the prosecutor recommended a “diversion” program with 20 hours of community service over 6 months. If Knighten completes the program all charges will be dropped.


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