It’s always a bit depressing (and heart-wrenching) to hear about the dramaturgy of grassroots community media; I’ve been involved in enough Indymedia, community radio, and media reform work to recognize (and be bitten by) the scourge of infighting.
Such a convulsion took place this autumn at Freak Radio Santa Cruz. The details are convoluted (as they always are), but apparently involve disputes over programming, the race card, and resultant collective factionalization.
In response to the apparent shattering of consensus on some basic principles that have steered the station for nearly 15 years, a few of Freak Radio’s founders have hung up the mic. Skidmark Bob produced his last FRSC-based PoP dEFECT RADIO program on October 13, and apparently others are scattering as well. Bob’s posted the farewell show up on his blog – where episodes of POP dEFECT (and other projects) will continue. It is well worth a listen. Continue reading “Freak Radio Suffers Schism”
While I may still be on partial hiatus, as the fall semester ends in its typical whirlwind of student-meetings, evaluations, and grading, life moves on. And I am pleased to report that the microradio movement is alive and well. I will be most interested to see just how the FCC wraps up this year’s “war on pirates” – when I finally find the time to digest the data.
Some heartening news comes from the old guard in California. Berkeley Liberation Radio, after suffering a government raid on its studio premises (not related to the station itself), has safely relocated and is kicking as usual. Across the Bay, San Francisco Liberation Radio has also been revived – the correspondence I received does not explicitly state that this return will include a frequency-modulated signal, but it leaves room for speculation: “Since our court case was resolutely rejected by the Ninth Circuit, SFLR dropped the legal proceedings but continued to stream internet radio. Now [a new crew] will continue in the long and storied tradition of SFLR in the South of Market area.” You can’t keep a good idea down. Continue reading “Scene Report: California”
An FBI raid last week on the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley has taken Berkeley Liberation Radio off the air, hopefully temporarily. Details are sketchy as to why the FBI raided the space in the first place, but guns-drawn agents were not picky about what they hauled away. Continue reading “Berkeley Liberation Radio Collateral Damage in FBI Raid”
It appears that the U.S. Senate may be moving toward a floor vote on the Local Community Radio Act. This bill originally began under the auspices of undoing the Congressional fiat in 2001 which severely restricted the promulgation of new low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations. By imposing draconian channel-spacing regulations on the new service, LPFM stations were precluded from being sited in areas of the nation in which 80% of the population lives.
The Local Community Radio Act has been the focus of a seven-year campaign to right this wrong. Most importantly, it would relax channel-spacing rules for LPFM stations (allowing them to be placed in more urban areas) and give LPFM stations a semblance of parity with regard to other classes of FM station. This would make LPFMs less susceptible to being bumped off the air by a larger station looking to move or otherwise modify its own transmission infrastructure. Continue reading “LPFM: Movement in Congress?”
Recently, former federal judge Michael Mukasey was nominated to be the next Attorney General of the United States. There’s lots of punditry going on within the mainstream media about his past legal leanings (surprise, they’re reactionary!), but Mukasey’s also been involved in microradio case law to a degree not experienced by any other contemporary Attorney General. It was back in 1998, when the Steal This Radio collective preemptively sued the Federal Communications Commission in hopes of stopping a station raid or other major, life-threatening enforcement action.
STR’s lawsuit was not the most well-thought-out piece of legal argument. It took a shotgun approach to the FCC’s licensing authority: some claims alleged the Communications Act itself was unconstitutional because it gave the FCC excessive latitude to restrict access to the airwaves via the licensing mechanism; one claim specifically attacked the practice of auctioning off commercial radio licenses for limiting “free expression” only to those who can afford it. Another posited the radio spectrum as a public forum, which necessitated the strictest scrutiny of government attempts to regulate it; under such analysis, the broadcast licensing regime was overly restrictive and therefore also unconstitutional. Continue reading “Attorney General Nominee No Friend of Pirates”
It seems that the FCC’s sweep of microradio is not leaving the old guard alone. Several long-running microradio stations have been visited by the FCC recently, including two individuals specifically targeted from the Free Radio Olympia collective, which sent out this missive: Continue reading “Free Radio Olympia Off-Air But Online, For Now”
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of free103point9, which initially began as a microradio station spinning interesting sounds from Brooklyn, New York’s Williamsburg neighborhood. It’s come a long way since then:
Largely blank slates, with little in the way of station identification or DJs talking back just-played records, experimental sounds of all sorts spilled out. The concept of “radio art” was just barely beginning to be explored…at that time….[T]he other inspiration behind starting the station was that the radio airwaves were dead zones that needed to be revived. The best way to locally communicate thoughts and new ideas was being wasted by a handful of corporations intent on turning the nation’s airwaves into private mints printing billions of dollars, polluting those airwaves as if they were pouring nuclear waste into national parks. …
With that in mind, the station went mobile, taking the transmitter directly to the people: Continue reading “Happy Birthday, free103point9”
It only took two weeks for the Ninth Circuit to issue its decision regarding San Francisco Liberation Radio‘s challenge to its 2003 raid. The station basically argued that since it was in regular, cordial contact with the FCC throughout a near-decade on air, it should been extended the courtesy of a chance to convince the judge who signed the warrant why such a move was not justified. Additionally, because radio is essentially an “instrumentality of expression,” the gravity of station raids should be weighed in any court’s mind with respect to its potential to hinder that expression.
Two-thirds of the oral argument (30:27, 5.3 MB) was dominated by SFLR’s attorney, Mark Vermeulen. He started by emphasizing the station’s public recognition and willingness to engage the FCC. He was interrupted quite early by a judge (either William Fletcher or Richard Clifton, I don’t know which) who wanted to know why a station that was openly breaking the law deserved gentler treatment just because they were being open about it. Continue reading “SFLR Loses Ninth Circuit Appeal”
Right at about the same time the FCC granted special temporary authority to a pirate station in Nevada to operate without a license, the agency told a group of irate listeners in Texas that they, too, could have a station if they wanted to.
How? Some 263 of them wrote letters to the FCC requesting it deny the transfer of KTPB-FM’s license from a community college to the Educational Media Foundation. The well-known godcaster will flip the station’s format from classical to one of its “alternative” offerings.
Seemingly impressed by the outpouring of support for classical music, thought the FCC denied the listeners’ objections to the license transfer it entertained the option of them applying for an LPFM station license in order to “fill any programming void left by the sale of the station to EMF and change in format that EMF may make.” Continue reading “FCC Creates Another LPFM Loophole, Courts to Consider a Third”
Just caught up on the FCC’s last two months of activity. It’s been a busy winter: 274 enforcement actions for 2006 and counting.
This includes fines, or threats of fines, of $10,000 against the transmitter-hosts of both microstations in San Diego, though escalating the enforcement process up to that level of severity remains mostly outside the FCC’s standard protocol (in related news, the agency’s Inspector General is planning an audit of its regulatory fee-collection process, something not done since 1999). Continue reading “Enforcement Action Database Cracks 1,000 Actions”