The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has given an important boost to the cause of low-power FM radio–those small, limited-range, noncommercial stations that give voice to community concerns ignored by remote, conglomerate-owned broadcasters. The court held unconstitutional a “character” provision in the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act that prohibited awarding microradio licenses to applicants who had “engaged in any manner in the unlicensed operation of any station in violation” of the Federal Communications Act’s original ban. The RBPA was passed after the FCC lifted the ban on microradio stations in an effort to increase diversity on the airwaves. Corporate broadcasters (and National Public Radio) successfully lobbied to limit the frequencies available to low-power stations, claiming they interfered with the broadcasters’ signals. The “character” provision was added to the RBPA to blacklist the passionate low-power broadcasters who had broadcast as an act of civil disobedience to protest the original FCC ban. The court ruled that this part of the law had no rational purpose and was intended to punish the protesters and keep them off the air.


After finishing his term as New York mayor in a glow of post-September 11 glory, Rudy Giuliani reverted to his old control-freak self. He made a quickie arrangement transferring all his mayoral papers to a private storage facility under his control. He says they’ll be available but reserves the right to withhold any papers he deems of “private interest.” Never mind that a mayor’s papers belong to the city. All previous mayors have sent theirs to the municipal archives, where they are accessible without conditions to journalists and scholars. Historians, publishers and civil libertarians opposed Giuliani’s grab, but Mike Bloomberg, who pays his campaign debts, signed off on the deal. Supposedly the city will determine if a document is public or private, but opponents say Rudy will still have the final say.


Back in McCarthyite times, Harvey Matusow was the young ex-Communist who specialized in naming former Communist folksingers before various inquisitorial tribunals. Not only folksingers, though. He once reported that there were 126 Communists in the Sunday Department of the New York Times (the total number of employees was 100). Harvey was proud of the fact that although he started out appearing before the Ohio Un-American Affairs Commission, he eventually worked his way up to what he called “the Palace of informing,” Joe McCarthy’s Senate committee. Then he got religion and wrote a book, False Witness, recanting his testimony and charging, among other things, that Roy Cohn got him to perjure himself as a witness in one of the Smith Act trials. He came down to The Nation‘s old offices at 333 Sixth Avenue to see if the magazine could help him find a publisher. Associate publisher Marty Solow did what he could, and eventually the book was issued by Cameron & Kahn in 1955. But the government then prosecuted him for perjuring himself–the second time around. It argued that his book was part of a conspiracy to undermine the Smith Act convictions of the Communist leadership against whom he had testified. And it tried unsuccessfully to implicate Nation editor Carey McWilliams and Solow in the so-called conspiracy. Harvey went on to serve time for perjury, invent a stringless yoyo and work for the homeless. By the time he died, he had changed his name to Job, because of the many misfortunes that had befallen him. Harvey was a sad and comic figure, but his story shows what can happen to a country and a culture when it abandons its democratic values and stampedes in a heresy-hunt masquerading as patriotism.