The FCC says that a New Mexico ham could lose his license for a variety of alleged offenses. In a case with what some are already claiming to be filled constitutional overtones, the FCC says that Sidney Mahan, K5BLB, kept interfering with other hams while using the wrong kind of language on the air. Now it may want Mahan off the air for good. Newsline's Paul Courson, WA3VJB, has more from Washington:


At first glance it looks like a simple crackdown on somebody using dirty language on the ham bands. But the FCC is apparently determined to use this case a broad guideline restricting the content of amateur conversations that some may consider profane.

The target of the enforcement action is Sidney Mahan, K5BLB, of New Mexico, who allegedly has interfered with hams participating in the controversial Liberty Net on 75 meters. The FCC notified Mahan in recent days that it may put his station license up for review at a revocation hearing. The agency also says that it may suspend his operators license for the remainder of its term.

Mahan allegedly ignored an earlier warning from the FCC to change his style of operation and conform with all of the FCC's rules governing the Amateur Radio service. The warning from November of last year cited questionable activities linked to Mahan operating on 75 meters, at around 3.950 MHz.

The warning letter suggested that Mahan was causing deliberate interference by making transmissions which included audio recordings and sound effects. Regulators say that here it is nearly a year later and enforcement staff continue to get complaints about activity allegedly coming from Mahan and his K5BLB.

The agency cited the use of profanity, obscenity, broadcasting extreme racial slurs, deliberate interference and failure to properly identify. Content issues get an unusual amount of emphasis in this latest letter to Mahan from the FCC. The agency suggests that Mahan may not understand the Commission's enforcement of a ban on obscene or indecent transmissions as it may apply to the Amateur Radio service.

The letter presents the FCC's opinion on the legal definition of obscene, indecent or profane language and cites a federal statute to back its claim that such material is outlawed on ham radio or anywhere else on the airwaves. The statute is Title 18, Section 1464, of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

FCC representatives have long suggested verbally that regulations from one service can be applied to any other service, but this is thought to be one of the first times that the FCC has taken the obscenity statute -- traditionally applied to broadcasters -- as part of an enforcement action against the Amateur community.

By inference, the letter suggests that if it can't be said on television or by radio's Howard Stern, it can't be said by a ham radio operator either.

The enforcement structure of designating a license for a revocation hearing is the same process used when the FCC moves against a licensed broadcaster. Only this time the call letters are K5BLB.

Regulators say that they have notified Mahan that they will be sending him some tape recordings made last month of on-the-air reception for his review. The recordings allegedly capture Mahan questionable operating. He is supposed to explain just what he is doing as heard on the tapes. Depending on his explanation the FCC will them move ahead to settle or prosecute its enforcement action against him.

In Washington D.C., reporting for Newsline -- I'm Paul Courson, WA3VJB.