It’s been nearly three months since I last heard from the Federal Communications Commission about the agency’s determinations on the journalistic legitimacy of a news organization I founded more than a decade ago.
For those just tuning in: earlier this year, the FCC fined a Chicago radio station more than $40,000 for airing newscasts produced by Workers Independent News. The FCC, in historically unprecedented fashion, categorized WIN as something other than journalism and admonished the offending station for deceiving its listeners.
I filed a FOIA request to get a sense of just how the FCC came to this determination, and what the implications of its decision might be on other independent media outlets seeking public access to the airwaves. The FCC, to put it mildly, has been less than helpful. Continue reading “FCC FOIA Request in Official Limbo”
You may have noticed that this site is now on a bona-fide blog platform…about a dozen-plus years late to the party, but hey, it finally happened. However, the transition has been a trainwreck behind the scenes. While things are clean-looking, (somewhat) searchable, and dialogue-enabled, the design, configuration, and content-migration did not go remotely as I’d hoped.
For one thing, most internal links within posts are broken, which requires hand-code fixes. Not only just for links to other site-content, but also to links to locally-hosted media files (audio/video/pictures). With 1,000+ posts over 17+ years, it’s a mind-numbing task, but I hope to have it complete within the next week or two. (As of today, all posts from 2006-present have been fixed). Continue reading “Pretty Outside, Broken Inside”
The first official response from the Federal Communications Commission regarding its troubling foray into defining what journalism is has arrived.
In a May 2 letter to Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), Karen Onyeije, the Chief of Staff of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, says the agency will not reconsider its determination that Workers Independent News is not news. Continue reading “FCC to Workers Independent News: Drop Dead”
It’s been a busy month for FCC field agents and Federal Marshals in the Northeast. Last week they raided and seized the equipment of three unlicensed radio stations in the Boston area, while two weeks prior they took down four pirate stations in New York City.
The Boston raids netted a long-time pirate who operated way out in the open. TOUCH FM, founded by long-time and well-respected community activist Charles Clemons, had been on the air for eight years. Clemons was also quite engaged in the movement to expand low-power FM radio and even ran for mayor of Boston last year. He’s been on the FCC’s radar since 2007, when he was first visited and warned; the agency followed up with a $17,000 fine in 2008, which was never paid. Continue reading “Pirate Raids Offer Glimpse Into FCC Fieldwork”
The federales ended their unlicensed broadcast enforcement activity with a whimper last year, apparently taking the month of December off completely. The entirety of 2013 saw 249 FCC enforcement actions, a slight reduction from 2012 levels.
Overall, the FCC was active against pirate stations in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and more than 90% of those stations involved were on the FM band. The vast majority of enforcement activity was concentrated on the coasts, with New York and New Jersey being the hottest spots for pirates—as evidenced by the major sweep the FCC did there in July. (For what it’s worth, there’s been no material change in the number of FM frequencies occupied by interlopers on my own radio dial here in Brooklyn.) Continue reading “FCC Enforcement in 2013: No Great Crusade”
It was a pretty busy summer for the federales, who not only managed to roll out their own version of the Enforcement Action Database, but made moves against pirate radio broadcasters in nine states. Among them, New York saw the vast majority of this action.
Of the 80+ recently-logged enforcement actions (which brings the yearly total to 200), nearly three-quarters of those happened in four of the five boroughs of New York City.
In the month of July alone, FCC agents visited and sent warning letters to more than two dozen pirates in the city; one unlucky station op in Queens got two visits and warning letters within this time span. Continue reading “FCC Anti-Pirate Efforts Focus on NYC”
It’s been quite a ride for the Free Radio Network, an historic online hot-spot for discussion of pirate radio in the United States. The FRN was launched in 1993 as a dial-up bulletin board system (BBS) administered by shortwave pirate enthusiasts John Cruzan and Kirk Trummel.
After transitioning to the Internet, the FRN expanded far beyond its message boards, though those remained a primary draw. In the early days of the World Wide Web, The Free Radio Network was one of the few places online where pirate broadcasters and allies could have frank discussions about their activity and its implications. It’s also been a primary collection-point for reception reports involving shortwave pirate stations. Continue reading “The Free Radio Network: 1993-2013?”
Lawmakers in Massachusetts are hard at work trying to outlaw unlicensed broadcasting. H.1679 was introduced in the state House of Representatives in January and got a hearing in the legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary just last week. Floor votes are expected before the end of the year.
If approved, Massachusetts would become the fourth state in the country to pass an anti-pirate radio law. Continue reading “Massachusetts Mulls Anti-Pirate Law”
Halfway through 2013, and the FCC’s pace of unlicensed broadcast enforcement shows no real change from 2012: 106 enforcement actions in all, targeting more than three dozen stations, with the majority of this activity wholly administrative in nature. Pirate stations who appear on the FCC’s radar can now expect a warning letter to arrive via certified mail 1-6 weeks after an initial visit. Ignore those, and the agency may start asking for money.
To date, the FCC has handed out $60,000 in Notices of Apparent Liability and $125,000 in actual forfeitures. However, not all of these penalties are new: in February, the FCC socked Whisler Fleurinor with a $25,000 fine for unlicensed operation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is actually Fleurinor’s second go-round – he was first busted in 2010 and given a $20,000 forfeiture in 2011, which was later reduced to $500. It’s much the same story for Gary Feldman, who was first busted in 2004 for pirate broadcasting in Miami. He was caught again last year and fined $25,000 this year. Moreno’s 2004 forfeiture ($10,000) was never paid. Continue reading “Pirate-Hunting: FCC Plods While Local Scenes Bubble”
A paragraph in the FCC’s annual performance report for fiscal year 2012 suggests the agency is on the warpath against unlicensed broadcasters:
The FCC shut down hundreds of pirate broadcast operations, which threaten the integrity of the nation’s communications infrastructure and caused interference to licensed broadcasters, air traffic control frequencies, and other public safety communications. There were $289,000 in penalties and 583 warnings issued during FY 2012.
Specious claims of the pirate threat aside, these numbers were quickly parroted by the Clear Channel-owned trade publication Inside Radio as evidence of a "pirate crackdown confirmed." But there’s no data to back up these claims. Continue reading “FCC Grossly Overstates Anti-Pirate Activity”