|NMU||SIXTH CIRCUIT||Broadcasting||Aug 17, 2001|
Cease and desist order sticks against low-power Cleveland station
- Station operator will have a chance to challenge license requirement at argument scheduled for September.
The operator of a volunteer radio station in Cleveland could not raise a constitutional defense during a hearing on the enforcement of a Federal Communications Commission cease and desist order, a federal appeals court decided.
Jerry Szoka stopped broadcasting “Grid Radio” in March 2000 after a federal judge issued an injunction against the low-power FM radio station. Szoka challenged the validity of the federal licensing requirement, but the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati (6th Cir.) said the proper venue to address that legal question was in another court. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. (D.C. Cir.) will hear Szoka’s case in September.
The decision by the Sixth Circuit on July 30 was on very narrow grounds, said attorney Mark Wallach, who represented Szoka. The appeals court ruling only enforced the injunction by the district court, which was issued because of Szoka failed to comply with the FCC orders.
In the meantime, the radio station named after a Cleveland nightclub will remain silent. Wallach, who argued the case to the Sixth Circuit, said his client wants to resume broadcasting to fill the void left in the market since the shutdown.
Grid Radio was the only station in the Cleveland area to cater to the gay community, Wallach said. Operating at the unused frequency of 96.9 FM with an output of 48.8 watts, the station played dance music and served as a source of community information. The station would broadcast commercial-free seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m., according to the Sixth Circuit opinion. The station also featured a three-hour weekly program that offered news and interviews pertinent to the gay community, dealt with issues such as gay marriage and hate crimes and promoted local artists, the court said.
The Center of Individual Rights will handle the case before the D.C. Circuit.
(U.S. v. Szoka; Media counsel: Mark Wallach, Calfee, Halter & Griswold, Cleveland) — SM
© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press