FCC tries to shut down low-power radio station
Erie Times 10-11-98
By JOHN BARTLETT Staff writer
MEADVILLE - When agents of the Federal Communications Commission came knocking on Darrell Sivik's door last month their intent was to silence his low-power FM radio station.
Not only has Sivik refused to shut down the station, but the FCC's visit has generated more volume than Sivik ever thought possible for the station, and its not all on the airways.
News accounts have carried the story of Sivik and his station across the state, and with it his message of an intrusive, out-of-control federal government.
Sivik believes his right to operate a low-power station is a free-speech issue, and he cites numerous federal court cases he believes unequivocally support his right to operate the station.
David Fiske, FCC spokesman in Washington, is equally unequivocal -- Sivik and other operators of low-power stations are wrong in their interpretation. According to Fiske and the FCC, the stations are illegal under federal law, and the courts have upheld those laws.
Sivik has become a cause celebre in the world of "micro-broadcasters," those who operate low-power, unlicensed stations, and a hero among that segment of the population that often identifies itself as the "Patriot Movement."
Sivik said his low-power station is reaching more people than he ever thought it would, both in terms of signal, and message.
"We've developed a big following. People's letters and calls are running 8-to-2 for us being kept in the air. We are hearing from people all over, said," said the 50-year-old Sivik, who describes himself as a "patriotic, Christian American."
"I try not to transgress against my neighbor," Sivik said. "I believe your freedoms are your's to enjoy until you step on someone else's freedoms."
It is that principle that guides the operation of his radio station, according to Sivik. He said if it were interfering with other broadcasters, or someone's radio-controlled equipment or otherwise causing problems, he would take corrective measures or shut it down. The FCC does not need to fear that his station will create such problems, he said.
Sivik's station broadcasts with about 40 watts of power at 88.3 on the FM band. It can be received by nearly everyone with a radio in about a two-mile radius of his Williamson Road home, and in certain locations 10 to 15 miles away.
He calls his station Braveheart, home of the Pennsylvania American Patriot Radio Network. Sivik re-broadcasts programs from Republic Radio International and World Wide Christian Radio, short-wave and satellite-feed broadcasters based in Michigan. He also does some local programming.
The varied programming is heavy in fundamentalism, conspiracy theories, militia and patriot movement commentary, new-world-order warnings, and predictions of coming economic and/or societal collapse.
Sivik has strong opinions and is quick to voice them, but he does so softly in a mild-mannered, self-effacing style. So softly he never even disturbed the orange and white cat that had found contentment falling asleep on his arm.
He holds the following views:
The United States is in danger of losing its sovereignty to a world government under the guise of the United Nations. Freedoms that Americans hold dear are under assault by our own government. Individual and property rights are being deliberately eroded. Much of what we see and hear as government crisis is manufactured deception to keep people unaware of what is really going on. The mainstream media has failed to tell the truth and inform the American public of what is really going on. It was a desire to give people access to the truth that led to creation of Braveheart radio, according to Sivik, a gunsmith and owner of a gunshop.
Sivik said the idea of a radio station started out just as talk among some friends that led to the donation of a few pieces equipment. Soon, he said, there were offers of financial support and additional equipment. In March the station went on the air.
It is located in a small building that is not much more than a shed behind his gun shop. Inside are a table, two chairs (one reserved for the cat) and a couch, and a wall of shelves holding broadcast and related equipment.
Sivik proudly said his Braveheart station spurred development of a second Pennsylvania American Patriot Radio Network low-power station in Potter County. The "Arrow of the Lord - Radio Free Ulysses," 89.5 on the FM band, is housed in the King James Baptist Church in the village of Ulysses and operated by the Rev. Tom Cole, chaplain of the Pennsylvania Militia.
Sivik declares himself a member of the Pennsylvania Militia, which he describes as an unorganized militia. "By virtue of being a citizen, you have a constitutional obligation to be a militia member," Sivik said.
Sivik, a native of Meadville, said he came to his current beliefs slowly, and initially as a result of what he saw as attacks on Second Amendment rights. "The Second Amendment - the right to bear arms - is what secures all our other rights," Sivik said.
Sivik said while his views are not popular with the current government, he does not necessarily believe they are why he was targeted by the FCC. Sivik said he believes the FCC will be going after micro-broadcasters everywhere as a matter of control and limiting discussion and free speech.
Following the visit by FCC agents on Sept. 22, Sivik received a certified letter dated Sept. 28 from the FCC ordering him to discontinue operation of the station or face criminal charges that could bring up to $100,000 in fines and a year in prison.
Sivik said since the FCC does not license broadcast stations with less than 100 watts of power, it has no right to close him down.
The FCC's Fiske said the fact he is unlicensed is the very reason he can be shut down, and criminal charges filed if he does not.
Sivik said he still has enough faith in the system that he will battle the FCC in court if necessary.