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News Archive: June 2005

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6/29/05 - Berkeley Liberation Radio Packs Up, For Now [link to this story]

The station shut down earlier this week in preparation for moving out of its present space by the end of the month. The Berkeley Daily Planet was there, and reports that things ended with a party:

The small broadcasting studio grew ever more crowded as the last hour wound down, voices raised in pitch and speed as the clock counted down the final few minutes.

Vinyl LPs and CDs were boxed up, ready to be hauled off, and empty plastic boxes were scattered around to supplement the limited numbers of folding chairs.

There was dark ale and Mexican beer for those who imbibed alcohol, and a distinctive 60’s fragrance that hinted at the presence of another favored Berkeley celebratory substance.

Quite a different portrayal is found in the Alameda Times-Star, which did, to its credit, quote Berkeley city councilwoman Kriss Worthington: "I think they provide important perspectives that have a hard time getting onto larger radio and TV stations. It's important that they're able to express their views."

6/23/05 - Press Review: RFB Follow-up and The Power of God(casting) [link to this story]

More newspapers now have articles on the raid of radio free brattleboro, and V-Man has an interview with station co-founder Larry Bloch. It sounds like the station is still absorbing the shock of the raid, especially since it was conducted during a time when the station was automated, thereby avoiding the outright conflict most raids cause. (FCC agents have already had one run-in with Brattleboro citizens before, which they didn't seem to enjoy.)

The government estimates it stole about $15,000 worth of gear; the station had no backup cache. If I remember correctly rfb runs on a pretty involved consensus model, which means a rebound might take some time.

In other news, the Columbia Journalism Review just published an excellent exploration into the world of evangelist Christian media, with special focus on broadcasting, and extra-special focus on perception-shaping. Some of the statistics on the sheer growth and size of Christian radio today (thanks, in part, to translator proliferation) were eye-opening, as were the words of Frank Wright, president of the National Religious Broadcasters: "We don’t just tell them what the news is. We tell them what it means."

6/22/05 - FCC Raids radio free brattleboro [link to this story]

An early-morning raid today backed by Federal Marshals has rfb off the air. The FCC had secured a warrant for arrest of the transmitter and associated gear "from a Burlington magistrate," which means it did not come from the Brattleboro-based judge hearing the station's case. Surprisingly, they actually left some gear behind (not much, but it wasn't a complete scouring).

This is a highly unusual move as the FCC has typically let any court proceedings play out before attempting another enforcement tack. In fact, the station's reaction to the raid notes that it had dropped its own attempt to secure an injunction against the FCC because of assurances that the agency would keep the dispute in the realm of the courts. Apparently a lack of patience caused the agency to renege.

But I think the FCC just lit off a community backlash in Brattleboro with this raid. The station has demonstrable and strong community support, most helpful in any rebound. One wonders if this development will affect Judge Murtha's injunction deliberation, seeing as how the raid has essentially undercut the court's due process. Perhaps the station could even file a motion asking for a return of its gear: there's certainly nothing to lose at this point.

6/20/05 - AMC Rocks Haus; FCC Drops Lit @ BLR [link to this story]

Freshly back from the 2005 Allied Media Conference, which definitely lives up to its hype. I didn't get a good sense of just how many people were there in total, but the AMC bowling party was definitely overflowing. The microradio workshop went off great (I caught nobody napping). The dulcet sounds of pirate radio songs, bust audio, and the KJR culture jam simulcast could be heard throughout the Bowling Green State University student union for the duration of Saturday. Now it's time to hope that inspiration takes root.

With three AMC sessions going on at any given time I ended up flitting between various things, except for Sunday, when I indulged in the conference film festival. Most of the panel sessions were taped, although the raw audio is of variable quality. I met a lot of talented and passionate people doing amazing work, like further exploration of the "hybrid radio" concept (webcasting plus microradio), turnkey tactical webcasting, radical librarianship, and oodles more.

While away: KPFA's Flashpoints did a rough interview with Berkeley Liberation Radio DJs Screwy Louie and Soul, who report finding a warning letter slipped under the door last week. As BLR is facing the imminent dilemma of losing its current space it certainly doesn't need the added hassle. Both DJs give up some interesting tidbits about the station, as well as some wacky-talk (no microradio case has yet been heard by the Supreme Court, and the FCC doesn't arrest people Pump Up the Volume-style).

6/17/05 - AMC Ahoy! [link to this story]

The seventh annual Allied Media Conference kicks off today in Bowling Green, Ohio. Hundreds of radical media activists from around the country will converge on the scene to share skills and plot projects. The microradio workshop goes down late Saturday morning. Says the schedule:

This session will provide an overview of the national microradio scene, current FCC policy and enforcement trends, and the prospects for expanded legal LPFM radio. It will also feature a working demonstration of a microradio station, to show just how easy it is to take back the airwaves. As a part of this demonstration we will discuss various operational tactics to mitigate exposure and enforcement concerns.

There will be a ton of excellent stuff going on, including workshops on tactical webcasting and podcasting, investigative journalism, using hip hop to organize, and so much more - like the zine readings, films, and (oh yes) the bowling party.

Being that AMC will attract its fair share of bloggers I'm surprised there's no collective blog project (yet). In the meantime watch AMC sponsor Clamor magazine's own blog for any late-breaking developments. This conference does accept on-site registration, so last-minute attendees should feel more than welcome.

6/16/05 - FCC Seeks Summary Judgment in radio free brattleboro Case [link to this story]

According to this article in the Brattleboro Reformer, the FCC spent the last 15 months ignoring judge J. Garvan Murtha's concerns about the lack of local access to the airwaves. That's why he denied the agency's request for a temporary injunction against rfb in the first place.

Instead, the best assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Drescher can come up with, apparently, is "we don't give out licenses to 10-watt stations, therefore radio free brattleboro must not broadcast." Which is not exactly true: the FCC's LPFM service contains a provision for so-called "LP-10" stations that would broadcast with 10 watts or less, but it has never solicited applications for LP-10 stations. How can a station acquire a license the FCC maintains on its books but refuses to issue?

No matter - the Rosa Parks provision in the LPFM rules prohibits anyone involved in radio free brattleboro from applying for a license. Not that this has come up in rfb's case specifically, but you can see how it complicates things.

Meanwhile, a group called Vermont Earth Works has secured a construction permit to build a 100-watt LPFM station in Brattleboro. Those involved with rfb have long declared once that station is ready to go on the air, rfb will be ready to disband. If that happened it would obviously negate the court case. From talking with an rfb volunteer in St. Louis last month, it sounds like they're keeping their options open at this point. The next move is the judge's.

6/15/05 - LPFM on Capitol Hill [link to this story]

There's lots of telecommunications-related legislation in the works this year, including a potential rewrite of the entire Telecommunications Act; a move to force broadcast television to make the break from analog to digital; and a bevy of bills that could fundamentally shift the way cable systems and phone companies are regulated and interact at the local level with the communities they serve. That's why low power radio advocates think the timing is right to push for an expansion of LPFM via Congress: the stakes are so much higher on so many other issues that a chance exists to squeak through something positive.

In February, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a bill to expand LPFM back out to the parameters the FCC had originally defined for the service in 2000. Before the end of the month a similar bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). The bill was to drop on June 9th but lacked demonstrable Republican support. Without such backing any LPFM legislation in the House is all but DOA.

Thus the heat is on to convince at least one GOP lawmaker to co-sponsor the bill. Several candidate Representatives are being courted, most notably by LPFM stations and aspirants in the South and Midwest. Lobbying from religious groups involved in LPFM is especially valuable, as they are most likely to bend a candidate's ear.

The House version of the Local Community Radio Act of 2005 may also include language to address two problems facing LPFM stations both present and future: translator proliferation and encroachment their coverage areas by full-power stations that modify their operations. In either situation, as the rules are currently written, the LPFM station loses (by having to either suffer increased interference or leave the air completely). The bill would also mandate future LPFM application windows of opportunity, on a regular basis. Because these provisions aren't in the Senate version, there's always the chance they might be later stripped for compatibility's sake.

There's an element of gambling involved in going the legislative route. There's nothing stopping the GOP majority from simply blocking action on this, in the same manner with which they've kept McCain's bill in parliamentary stasis since February. It is true that LPFM's foes are preoccupied with larger issues, but those larger issues present ample opportunity for the attachment of poison riders and/or other procedural chicanery. D.C.'s a different place than it was five years ago; back then there wasn't a media reform movement worthy of the name, either. This could be an important test of the movement's muscle.

6/14/05 - Free103point9 Goes Country [link to this story]

Not so much in the format sense as locationally: the NYC-based radio-as-canvas collective is opening up action on a second front. It's two and a half hours upstate, on 30 acres of woodland! Dubbed the Wave Farm, it "will host occasional performances, as well as an artist residency program called AIRtime."

The Wave Farm opens July 4th with Tune(Out))) Side, an afternoon and evening of 50 performers on five frequencies. Later in the month is Campfire Sounds, "a weekend of avant folk." In August the Wave Farm will host workshops devoted to "broadcasting/webcasting, performing with video, organic gardening, and music improvisation," catering to both kids and adults.

It might very well be the first ever incubator devoted specifically to the transmission arts. Sounds like a special place in the making.

6/9/05 - Scene Reports: California, Illinois [link to this story]

California: Skidmark Bob just interviewed Monkey of the infamous Pirate Cat Radio. Monkey scored an early copy of Stephen Dunifer's TV transmitter kit and put Pirate Cat TV on the air six months ago; its 80-watt signal can be seen on Channel 13 in the San Francisco area. Programming consists of a growing catalog of DIVX .avi files on a homebrew server with a terabyte of storage, and the station is actively soliciting more content.

As for Pirate Cat Radio, Monkey says there's about 30 DJs presently, and the dues-paying fundraising model takes care of their needs. At the end of the interview he says the station will soon "upgrade" from 220 to 1,000 (!) watts, mostly by moving to a directional antenna system.

Illinois: I finally got around to reading the summer '05 edition of the St. Louis-based Confluence, which was published right before the National Conference for Media Reform hit town. The entire issue's devoted to the importance of media-making to any reformist effort, and microradio gets large props.

The cover story is an interview with Mbanna Kantako, whose Human Rights Radio is now into its 18th consecutive year of broadcasting without a license in Springfield.

When we first came on the air, it hit the country like a bomb. You know what they were saying. "Negroes is using transmitters, stop em!" That's what it was like. It wasn’t like "Hey, great move" or nothing like that. A lot of folks sat back waiting to see if they were going to kill me before they started the free radio movement. To me, if you want to use this as a means to get your point across, you don’t have to call it a free radio movement, just say you got good sense to use what's available.

Defiant and committed as ever, Kantako offers up some sage advice:

Know that what you are doing is right. And then know, that because you are doing right, what goes around, will come around. They will tell you anything to get you not to do it. That is gonna be your first line of defense, cause you're gonna need some lines of defense.

If you approach it like what you are doing is wrong, then don't do it cause they are going to crawl all over you. It ain’t going to be the government that’s going to give you the most hell. It’s going to be people you know. The government will send you a letter every now and then but everything they do is calculated to terrorize the people that you know and care about. They get away with so much because people cooperate.

You got to make this beast be what he is. Get up in court and claim you are on the air.... I been to court with these fools a million times on different things and I look forward to going. I really do love going into that court room if for nothing else I am going to educate everybody in that courthouse cause I don’t stand up for them. All rise? Kiss my ass. I’m not guilty of nothing. They ain’t in charge. We just give ‘em the authority.

Ron Sakolsky also contributed to the issue with an updated overview of microradio in a post-LPFM world. The narrative's a bit romanticized in places and there's not a lot of references to specific station activity but it nonetheless illustrates microradio's continued vibrancy.

6/7/05 - Translator Crusades: D.C. Update [link to this story]

Things are in a somewhat strange state of flux at the FCC regarding the controversy involving speculation and trafficking in FM translator stations, at the expense of spectrum for more LPFM outlets. On March 18 the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which seeks to expand the LPFM service; it also included a six-month freeze on the processing of any more translator applications from the flood dumped on the agency in 2003. However, the rulemaking itself has yet to be formally published in the Federal Register.

Publication in the Register is an important step in the regulatory process. Typically, agencies do not start the clock on a regulatory proceeding until it has been formally published in the Register. In this case, it would formally start the FCC's comment and reply-comment period, which is supposed to run for up to 45 days following Register publication.

In one sense, lack of publication in the Register has extended the amount of time available to file comments on the proposed expansion of LPFM (proceeding number 99-25). This should include encouraging the FCC to open up a bona-fide investigation into the translator scam action.

What is not completely clear is whether time has also been suspended on the translator freeze. The NPRM itself says the freeze "is effective upon the release of this Further Notice and shall remain in effect for six months," which could mean it will expire in mid-September. If one uses Register publication as the benchmark, then the six-month freeze has already been stretched to nine months, and counting.

Technicalities aside, wrangling over the issue of translator abuse has already begun. Two of the primaries behind the Radio Assist Ministry/Edgewater Broadcasting/World Radio Link cabal, Clark Parrish and Steve Atkin, personally lobbied at the FCC on April 13 and 14. They met directly with Commissioners Kathleen Abernathy and Jonathan Adelstein, as well as with a representative from Chairman Kevin Martin's office and several staff members of the Media Bureau.

Parrish and Atkin "explained how the freeze accomplishes little toward the goal of a viable LPFM service [and] that few LPFM facilities were actually precluded by the FM translator window," a perception that does not jibe with those in the reality-based community.

Parrish and his wife, Debbie, then paid a return visit to the FCC on May 5, where they spent approximately 40 minutes selling their line to Commissioner Michael Copps' senior legal adviser, Jordan Goldstein.

Merging constituencies may outmaneuver the translator-mongers yet. The National Religious Broadcasters and National Translator Association are both very uncomfortable with the scale of the speculation and trafficking attempted here. Apparently, religious translator-networks like K-LOVE, CSN, and American Family Radio are known as "carpetbaggers" by those in the business who actually live and contribute directly to their local communities, and resent outsiders barging in to snap up open frequencies for the Lord.

Perhaps this discomfort among constituencies can be molded into something approaching a workable and expedient resolution to the translator invasion itself. Perhaps it might even lead to revisions to the FCC's translator rules prohibiting such greed from manifesting again in the future.

6/2/05 - Seeking Spectrum's Historical Picture [link to this story]

An interesting research project has fallen into my lap from a professor with whom I had a pretty cool class last semester. He seeks "historical visualizations" of spectrum, with an emphasis on how spectrum has been represented in the context of policy debates.

Quoth Christian Sandvig, "Here is a topic where people argue all the time about whether the spectrum is 'full' or 'empty' (and about interference, whether things are 'near' or 'far', etc.) and yet the visual conventions that convey 'fullness' or 'emptiness' or 'nearness' -- how maps and diagrams and charts are made, with what shapes, at what scale -- seems to be subject to a lot of cavalier manipulation."

My task is to explore how this has occurred throughout policy-history, with deviation into related areas allowed if the graphics are compelling enough. It's a somewhat daunting assignment because I can see getting lost in the hunt.

6/1/05 - Pirate-Buster Patented DNA Database Search [link to this story]

A trivial postscript to the saga of Knoxville's First Amendment Radio, whose demise in 2004 was attributed in large part to David Icove: ultra-cop, righteous ham, and, apparently, mad scientist. In the months leading up to the bust, a team (of which Icove was a part) received a patent on a "parallel data processing architecture" designed to make DNA database searches fast and easy.

In a biometric-heavy War on Terror™, there's obvious potential in such proprietary knowledge.