Florida man faces 5 years in prison for operating illegal community radio station

A Florida man was arrested last month for operating an illegal community radio station, according to NBC-2. Al Knighten, who faces a felony charge for unauthorized radio transmission and up to five years in prison, skipped his arraignment Monday, Jan. 9, to share the radio station's story at the Civil Rights on the Airwaves forum in Washington, D.C., reported the Ft. Myers News-Press.

The Dunbar Community Radio Service 107.5 FM is a low-power station, operating from Knighten's home without a license, that for two years broadcast news, gospel, and soul music to "the Dunbar community, a mostly black South Florida neighborhood that is often ignored by local media," according to Poynter.

When Knighten was arrested, police confiscated the station's transmitter and other equipment totaling about $4,000, the News-Press said.

Obtaining licenses from the Federal Communications Commission has historically been difficult because of the costs and the limited number of licenses available, which is why in January 2011 President Obama signed into law the Local Community Radio Act, which allows for the creation of more low-power community stations. Even once the FCC begins accepting applications later this year, Knighten will be ineligible because he previously ran an unlicensed station, Poynter explained.

Knighten has pleaded not guilty, said WZVN-TV.

The Ft. Myers News-Press also reported that the pirate station was reported to the FCC by a political foe who "butted heads" with the station over a ballot initiative.