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Preacher fights to keep broadcasting pirate radio

strawcutter December 16, 1996
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Ed Garsten

ADRIAN, Michigan (CNN) -- Michigan preacher Rick Strawcutter runs a radio station from a tower behind his church, preaching time and temperance on the airwaves.

But "Radio Free Lenawee 97.7 FM" is not run-of-the mill radio. Strawcutter is fighting the federal government, which wants to shut down the 95-watt station.


Strawcutter runs what's known as a pirate station, operating without a federal license. So the Federal Communications Commission has asked Strawcutter either to get a license, or shut down.

He has no intention of pulling the plug, or doing the paperwork. "There are a lot of small voices like mine that need to be heard in this country, and we feel, in large measure, we're being suppressed. That's not paranoia, that's just recognizing there's a problem," he said.

Strawcutter cites a 1995 federal court decision in California, which blocked an FCC move to shut down "Free Radio Berkeley," a low-power station operated by Stephen Dunifer. In that case the court said the FCC's regulations were out of date and unclear.

license plate

Nonetheless, the FCC has told CNN that if Strawcutter does not shut down, he risks a $10,000 fine, confiscation of his equipment and possibly stiffer penalties. The FCC says it acted in response to complaints by Adrian residents and other radio stations.

In Adrian, a southern Michigan college town, opinions are strong on whether or not Strawcutter should be cut off. "I think he's a little out of line, I think he should obey the laws like the rest of us," said one man.

But a supporter said, "We practically have no Constitution; there's not much left of it. And I appreciate what he's doing for the community."


Strawcutter likens his crusade to the acts of another rebel who stood fast for freedom. "It's gonna be seen as kind of the Rosa Parks of radio," Strawcutter said. "When Rosa sat on the front seat of the bus, they said, 'Rosa, you don't have a license to do this,' and Rosa, in effect, said, 'I don't need a license to do this.'"

Rosa Parks didn't need a license to sit at the front of the bus, but the government insists that to operate a radio station Rick Strawcutter does. It promises to push on until the only thing heard is radio silence.


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