FCC Letter to Peoples Temple, August 10, 1978

Washington, DC 20554

[stamped date] 10 Aug 1978

Mr. Elton T. Adams
Post Office Box 15156
San Francisco, California 94101

In re: Amateur radio station WD6DVI.

Dear Mr. Adams:

On May 16, 1978, Commission engineers monitored radio transmissions between your station and Amateur radio station WA6DTJ. Your communications related to the business affairs of People’s Temple. A transcript of the communication is enclosed. The communications appears to be in violation of Section 97.114(c) of the Commission’s Rules.

Section 97.114(c) provides as follows:

    §97.114 Thirty party traffic.

      The transmission or delivery of the following amateur radio communication is prohibited:

        (a) International thirty party traffic except with countries which have assented thereto.

        (b) Thirty party traffic involving material compensation, either tangible or intangible, direct or indirect, to a third party, a station licensee, a control operator, or any other person.

        (c) Except for an emergency communication as defined in this part, third party traffic consisting of business communications on behalf of any party. For the purpose of this section business communication shall mean any transmission or communication the purpose of which is to facilitate the regular business or commercial affairs of any party.

In adopting this rule, the Commission gave consideration to what types of third party communications should be permitted. The Commission believes “that the best solution lies between the extremes of prohibiting entirely thirty party communications and permitting unlimited thirty party operations. To prohibit entirely thirty party traffic would tend to stifle one of the basic purposes of the Amateur Radio Service, which is to provide a voluntary non-commercial radio service. But to allow all thirty party communications would tend to cause increased congestion in the Amateur bands.” (In the Matter of Inquiry Into the Extent to Which Amateur Stations Should Be Used on Behalf of Non Amateur Organizations, p. 493, Docket No. 19245 (FCC-72-895), 37 F.C.C. Reports, p. 492). Thus, the Commission limited the prohibition on thirty party traffic to business communications which “facilitates the regular business or commercial affairs of any party.” (Emphasis supplied.)

By letter dated November 28, 1973, the Commission issued a declaratory ruling on Section 97.114 in response to an inquiry from Mr. Orvis L. Wertz, Trustee, Trinity Radio Station, WB9LIC, C-1005 Trinity College, Deerfield, Illinois 60015 (FCC 73-1241/97246). In its letter, the Commission stated, in part:

    Under these rules personal and emergency thirty party communications are permitted. In addition, thirty party traffic on behalf of an organization is permitted to the extent it does not involve the regular business or commercial affairs of the organization, or during emergencies. Organizational thirty party traffic involving regular business or commercial affairs is, however, prohibited. Under these rules an organization like the Red Cross is allowed to use Amateur radio to coordinate disaster activities but not for its day-to-day functions.

    The rules adopted in Docket 19245 were written, among other reasons, so as to preclude non-amateur communications and organizations from encroaching upon the amateur radio frequency spectrum, and legitimate purposes of the Amateur Service. In adopting these rules, it was the Commission’s belief that amateur radio should not become a quasi-business type radio service. Such activities would be outside of the scope and purpose of the Amateur Service. (See §97.1).

    The Amateur Service was never intended to take the place of a two-way business radio communication service or a common carrier operation. Simply because a non-amateur organization finds amateur stations convenient with which to meet its regular non-emergency communications needs cannot justify the use of amateur frequencies. While the Commission encourages amateur operators to handle and develop a message handling capability, it would not be consistent with the purposes of the Amateur Radio Service to permit an amateur station to operate what amounts to a communication service for a thirty party entity – notwithstanding the fact that the entity may be highly meritorious. (FCC 73-1241/07246, dated November 28, 1973).

The communications involving your radio station related to the normal day-to-day administrative details of operating the missionary outpost of Peoples Temple. This type of communication has previously been interpreted by the Commission as constituting the regular business affairs of a charitable organization. (Letter from Chief, Safety and Special Radio Services Bureau, to Brother Paul Keiner, St. Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, Indiana 47577, dated May 26, 1977).

You are therefore advised that the use of your radio station to facilitate the administrative and operating functions of the People’s Temple missionary outpost are prohibited thirty party communications, as defined in Section 97.114(c) of the Commission’s Rules. You are further cautioned that a continuation of such transmissions by Amateur radio station WD6DVI, could result in the imposition of enforcement sanctions such as monetary forfeiture, or, if necessary, revocation and/or cease and desist proceedings.

[signed] Gerald M. Zuckerman
Gerald M. Zuckerman
Chief, Legal, Advisory and Enforcement Division

(Several pages of intercepts of business transmission follow.)