Micro Radio Madness: Broken by The Man-87X Case Settled

by David R. Parvo

On November 19, 1997, the house of Kelly Benjamin was raided by the MJTF SWAT team at 6:30 a.m. with a warrant for transmitting equipment. Mr. Benjamin is a microbroadcaster. His offense? Willfully disobeying section 301 of the Communications Act - he flouted FCC licensing rules by transmitting from his home without a license. Microbroadcasters essentially believe that communication is the divine right whether you are a human being, a dog or a lizard. Therefore, the FCC should be abolished, for it is not only regulating communication but in many cases eliminating it as well. Some of the equipment seized is as follows: 1,500 records, 268 tapes, 400 CDs, the transmitter, power supplies, turntables, CD and tape players, microphones, mixing boards, a sampler . . . everything. After refusing a deal that the US Attorney offered him, Mr. Benjamin filed three Motions for Summary. The prosecution responds by calling his motions frivolous, and filing their own Motions for Summary Judgement. By taking this action, the prosecution (the good old US of A) guarantees that Mr. Benjamin cannot use his First Amendment argument, for the US Code prohibits constitutional arguments to be mounted in defense to a civil forfeiture action. After much soul-searching, Mr. Benjamin realizes the futility of his actions and agrees to the original settlement on April 30, 1998. He gets his records, tapes and CDs back, not his transmitting equipment.

Kelly Benjamin is a true American patriot. He stood up for his rights and what he believed in as best as he could. This case shows the extent to which the federal government, using the insidious agency the FCC, will go to deny the citizens of this country their constitutional right to freely express themselves. It also exemplifies the heavy-handed tactics that our own government uses in the interest of keeping the flow of information lying solely with the corporate elite . . . the same corporate elite that is buying off our elected officials with campaign contributions.

In 1996, the federal Telecommunications Act was passed. Since then, 4,000 of the 11,000 radio stations in the U.S. have changed ownership, many of them gobbled up by media conglomerates. The results of this Act are unsurprising: a rapid dwindling of local programming in favor of standardized music, talk, and news, all of which is often packaged in distant corporate headquarters. The laws stifling microbroadcasting need to be abolished so that more voices can be heard, increasing the diversity beyond that which the mega-corporations want you to hear. Basically, our government has succeeded, for the airwaves are becoming sterilized, stagnant, and static. Attorney Louis Hiken told an NAB panel that "People are totally offended by what's on the air." Here at the ROC, we could not agree with him more. We deplore the FCC and everything that it stands for. Communication cannot and should not be regulated, managed, governed, monitored or supervised in any way. It is a constitutional right of ours, a right which needs to be respected by the federal government. Cases such as Kelly Benjamin's proves how little the American government respects the First Amendment and thus the rights of its own citizens. BAN THE FCC from it's campaign of injustice against those citizens simply seeking to expand communications options for their communities!! There's is no difference between microradio and the printing presses of the Founding Fathers that were outlawed by the British government.

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