Appeals court bans pirates from low-power radio

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In a big reversal for pirate broadcasters, federal appeals judges Friday
upheld a law banning anyone who has run an illegal unlicensed broadcast station
from operating an authorized low-power radio station.

The decision -- issued in a 9-1 vote by the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C. --
overturns a 2002 ruling by a three-judge panel of the same court.

The FCC had asked for rehearing before the full compliment of the court.
Ruling against former pirate Greg Ruggiero, the judges said the law is neither
overinclusive nor a violation of the First Amendment.

The ban "applies without regard to any content the applicant may have
broadcast unlawfully ... and is based solely upon the applicant's prior lack of
compliance with the licensing requirement," wrote Chief Judge Douglas
Ginsburg.

Judge David Tatel dissented, arguing that the ban sets an "indefensible"
double standard that imposes a "draconian sanction" on pirates, many of whom
have already been punished through fines.

Judge Judith Rogers, who voted to strike the ban a year ago, switched
sides.

Congress imposed the ban in 2000 when it tightened rules governing the FCC's infant
low-power radio service.

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