Naked City

Static Quo

Naked City
Photo By Shannon Young

It's static again on the dial at 97.1 FM -- the frequency that is home to Free Radio Austin. The East Austin microradio station was shut down at about noon Monday, in the second Federal Communications Commission raid in less than a month. U.S. marshals gained access to the station by breaking in through a window. The station programmer refused to open the door when agents would not show a warrant.

When FCC officials finally produced a warrant, it provided for the seizure of the broadcast equipment and the arrest of "any and all John and Mary Does" associated with FRA, as well as two specific individuals associated with the station: Rebecca Berthold and John Seibold. Berthold lives on the property that housed Free Radio Austin. The equipment was again seized, but neither of the two people named in the warrant were arrested. But the inclusion of individual names on the warrant suggests that the FCC is increasing pressure on the station, which was back on the air three days after it was last raided on Oct. 10. The Nov. 6 raid was led by Houston FCC agent Lloyd Perry, who was accompanied by a second FCC officer, four U.S. marshals, and a half-dozen Austin police officers. Perry also led the Oct. 10 raid on the station.

The APD also seemed to be cranking up the pressure, as several individuals involved in acts of civil disobedience were dragged from the site and one woman was arrested on misdemeanor charges. Another woman went to the hospital after she was hit by an SUV driven by FCC agent Perry as he left the scene.

When contacted at his Houston office, Perry refused to answer any questions, and said all questions should be directed to John Winston, an FCC public information officer in Washington. Winston also refused to answer any questions, saying only that, "There is no statement from the FCC. Once a case is under investigation, the FCC makes no further comment" (see also "Dancing About Architecture," p.76 ).

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