Unauthorized Transmission


In Tioga, North Dakota, the sole radio station offers both kinds of music: country and western. Roy Neset, a local farmer, asked the station many times for a little variety but never received satisfaction. So Neset made an agreement with a Colorado talk-radio station and retransmitted its signal from his home satellite dish over the five-mile radius where he does his tilling.

The local radio station doesn't like the competition. Its manager complained to the Federal Communications Commission's field office, which in turn convinced the obviously underworked U.S. attorney in North Dakota to sue Neset for the crime of broadcasting from home to tractor without a license.

So why doesn't Neset just get a license? The FCC won't give him one for his 30-watt transmitter, even though the entire FM spectrum over his farm lies fallow. Since the Carter administration, the agency hasn't issued any broadcast licenses for transmitters of less than 100 watts.

Neset is not the only victim of this policy. The Institute for Justice, which has mounted a First Amendment defense of Neset, reports that over the past year the FCC has initiated actions against approximately 100 microbroadcasters, from groups offering original programming such as Free Radio Berkeley to retransmitters like Roy Neset.