Pirate-radio operators win federal victory

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The Federal Communications Commission cannot bar all former illegal
pirate-radio operators from holding low-power licenses, federal judges said
Friday.

The decision requires the FCC to rewrite at least a portion of 2001 rules
creating a low-power service.

An acceptable solution, the judges suggested, is an original agency plan to
grant LPFM licenses to pirates that willingly close operations after an FCC
warning.

That more lenient version was tightened by Congress before the current
version of the LPFM rules was enacted.

The judges called the blanket ban "a draconian sanction."

Although the judges said they had no qualms with other parts of the low-power
rules, wording of the order made it unclear Friday whether they intended the FCC
vacate only the ban on pirates or the current rules in entirety.

The agency is expected to ask the court for a clarification of the order,
which doesn't go into effect for 45 days.

In a separate decision Friday the court upheld the FCC's power to ban
unlicensed broadcasters and upheld an $11,000 fine against pirate Jerry
Szoka.

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