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Federal Judge Says Pirate Radio Ship Needs License

December 20, 1988

BOSTON (AP) _ A rock ‘n’ roll pirate radio ship that had broadcast beyond the 3-mile territorial limit off Long Island, N.Y., needs a Federal Communications Commission license to keep operating, a federal judge has ruled.

The ruling ends claims by Alan H. Weiner of New York, the ship’s former owner and one of four defendants, that the radio ship Sarah had a constitutional right to broadcast without an FCC license on ″open and unused frequencies.″

Jeremiah Gutman, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer and counsel to Weiner and Radio New York International, argued that his clients had the ″right to freedom of expression over the public forum of the airwaves.″

However, U.S. District Judge John J. McNaught, in a summary judgment granted the government Dec. 13, rejected the defendants’ contention that the broadcast spectrum is ″a natural phenomenon, like oceans and lakes and ... is analogous to streets and public parks,″ where free speech is a right.

The judge said the defendants ″could not look to the First Amendment for authority to broadcast on an unoccupied frequency in violation of both federal and international law. The First Amendment does not grant anyone the right to broadcast by radio.″

Weiner has said he launched the pirate station to protest what he called conformity in New York-area radio programming.

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