FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps were in Seattle on November 30th to take more public testimony on the agency’s ongoing media ownership rules review. Reclaim the Media, packed the main auditorium of the Seattle Public Library and provided the Commissioners with four hours’ worth of testimony.
Just two weeks before the FCC’s visit, RtM also organized the Northwest Community Radio Summit, which featured three days of workshops on a wide range of issues. One of those was on “The Case for Free Radio in the 21st Century” (1:00:34, 10.4 MB), hosted by members of the Free Radio Olympia collective. It provided a short overview of the history of unlicensed broadcasting and some of the more popular rationales for why it’s still advantageous to be a radio pirate in a post-LPFM world. Continue reading “Microradio, Today and Tomorrow”
I visited Freak Radio Santa Cruz and Berkeley Liberation Radio earlier this month. Ironically, at neither location did I actually glimpse the transmitter. I wish I would have thought out in advance how to cover them. I did try to record some audio, but f*cked up the settings on my magic box.
Fortunately, the V-Man managed to tape the surprise visit from Poodles McGee of the FCC, who just so happened to be in town on vacation and wanted to see the infamous Freak Radio for himself. No harm done, though Poodles promised to return with “nasty-ass musclebound wacknuts to come and take your stuff away.”
I really wish I would have had more time. Many thanks to the V-Man, Skidmark Bob, Bradley, Phil, Matt, Cap’n Fred, Jane, and Arun for making it happen.
The FCC has now conducted more enforcement actions against unlicensed AM and FM stations in the first half of 2006 than it did in the entirety of 2005, which broke all previous records for cat-and-mouse action. However, this milestone was reached by a bit of paperwork puffery on the part of the FCC. For example, as field agents hunted recent activity on San Francisco Liberation Radio‘s old frequency (93.7), they sent warning letters to two people and the owner/manager of the building they apparently live in. In the recent past, tagging one would have sufficed.
This year the FCC also broke its drought of issuing forfeiture (fine) notices to pirate stations. Four people have been presented with $10,000 government invoices so far this year, compared with none in 2005. Each case took at least a year to reach that level of escalation, and based on the FCC’s prior collection history, it will be lucky if it actually sees dough from half of them. Continue reading “Microradio's Second Wave”
Free Radio Berkeley is again conducting four-day Summer Radio Camps, in which participants get immersively indoctrinated into the technicalities of radio by assembling their own microradio transmitters and antennas. The first one goes down on Memorial Day weekend; the last happens in September. With plans to be in the SF Bay area during the start of August’s Camp, it would be neat to pop in and see how these things are done.
Also duly noted: FRB has translated Micropower Broadcasting: A Technical Primer into Spanish, and has made available a complete, scanned-page version of the “radio comic book” A Popular Guide to Building a Community FM Broadcast Station.
The 12-page ruling that came down earlier this spring, forbidding the station from taking to the air ever again, was only written after U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha extended rfb and the FCC a chance to negotiate some sort of amicable settlement. rfb proposed powering down in exchange for the FCC giving Vermont Earthworks expedited consideration of its LPFM application. The FCC refused (though the organization was awarded the right to build WVEW-LP anyway) and went to another federal court for a warrant to raid the station.
With a settlement thus impossible, Murtha had to make a ruling. So he did, and it pretty much tracked with my initial suspicions. He noted that rfb was statutorily barred from receiving an LPFM license; he employed the “jurisdictional wiggle”* to sidestep and otherwise ignore rfb’s constitutional challenges to the FCC licensing regime. He also denied rfb’s call for sanctions against the FCC for double-dipping the legal system in order to take the station off the air. The station had been fairly warned that a raid might be in the cards, and there’s no rule that limits the number of enforcement tools the FCC can employ at any given time. In these respects the decision falls on the unremarkable pile. Continue reading “Radio Free Brattleboro Decision Analysis”
106.9FM, the on-air relay for RadioActive San Diego, is back on the air. The station went dark last year citing financial and FCC troubles (the host of its transmitter was hit with a $10,000 Notice of Apparent Liability). When it signed off it pledged to come back five times stronger. That pledge has been fulfilled: the old 30-watt transmitter’s been replaced with one that does 150.
Earlier this month, Free Radio San Diego went back up to full power, after hobbling along in a weaker configuration since being raided last summer. Station founder Bob Ugly reports the coverage area is “as good if not the best it’s ever been.”
A short story reports that J. Garvan Murtha, the federal judge overseeing the FCC’s original case against the station, ruled in the FCC’s favor on March 31. The ruling contains a “John and Mary Doe” clause, which basically calls for a blanket ban on any unlicensed broadcasting within the community of Brattleboro.
Unfortunately, the story says nothing about the judge’s rationale. It does, however, quote station lawyer James Maxwell as saying that the station’s tactic of mustering community support for an alternate “authority to broadcast” is still valid: “The basic argument that a town gave an entity permission to broadcast still exists. That argument is still useable by other stations.” Continue reading “Federal Judge Disses Radio Free Brattleboro”
Stephen Dunifer sent along this slick document: a four-page primer on why the airwaves are ripe for repossession and how to make it happen in your town. You get a concise overview of what the risks are and some basic tactical information. There’s a plug for Free Radio Berkeley’s more detailed graphic guide near the end. A good conversation-starter among activist-gatherings.
The New York office has been spending a lot of time in New Jersey, perhaps in response to the state’s attempt to assert enforcement jurisdiction over the airwaves. (Meanwhile, in Florida, the FCC’s busy busting construction crane operators cursing on two-way radio frequencies licensed to a hospital.)
Out west, Berkeley Liberation Radio got another visit and the Portland Radio Authority is off the air after same. Free Radio Santa Cruz‘s Skidmark Bob did a long interview with BLR volunteer Gerald Smith, where the connection between the current station its evolution from roots in Free Radio Berkeley is vividly described. Field agents have also paid respects to stations in Nevada and New Mexico. Continue reading “FCC Watch: Enforcement Tempo Quickens”
I’ve been invited to the NYC Grassroots Media Conference, going down February 11 at New School University. This is the third NYC GMC, which is a project of the Paper Tiger-sponsored NYC Grassroots Media Coalition.
I believe I’ll be giving a workshop on microradio operations, similar to the one that went down at the Allied Media Conference last year. Lots of show-and-tell with emphasis on practical, tactical applications, tailored to this particular conference’s goals. Hundreds of others will be similarly sharing knowledge, which should make for much fun. I haven’t been to New York in more than a decade.