Back in Black

Doug Brewer has a thriving radio equipment sales and repair business, but his main love has always been his radio station, 102.1 – Tampa’s Party Pirate. After two years of silence following a brutal raid by the authorities, Brewer is risking it all to take back the airwaves around his Florida home.
At a scaled-back 125 watts and a smaller antenna, the Party Pirate may not be as loud a voice as before, but the fact that it’s back at all is a feat in itself.
In an interview conducted via e-mail, Brewer says it wasn’t a tough decision to go back on the air. “We were already ready. The (new station) site was developed the same week that they raided us 2 years ago.”
“The hardest thing was to resist the urge to turn the transmitter back on for two years,” admits Doug. “I guess I just felt it was time to do it, and since it’s only about a month to Y2K, well, the timing just seemed right.” Continue reading “Back in Black”

Martyr No More

Two years is a long time to stay silent. But in the case of Doug Brewer, who can blame him?
Doug was one of those raided by law enforcement and the FCC on November 19, 1997. That day is referred to by unlicensed microbroadcasters nationwide as “Black Wednesday” – when the FCC swept through Florida with guns at their back and shut down at least three low power FM radio stations. One person was even arrested in the sweep.
Doug’s case was one of the most brutal. He was woken up early the morning of November 19 to the sight of a SWAT team and held “in custody” for most of the day in his home while agents methodically destroyed not only his station, 102.1 “Tampa’s Party Pirate,” but also damaged his home and ransacked his radio equipment sales and repair business. Continue reading “Martyr No More”

The End-Run Begins

Just two days after the FCC closed the second round of comments on a proposal to legalize a low power radio service, the broadcast lobby has chosen not to wait to hear the opinions that more than three thousand of you sent the Federal Communications Commission on the issue.
Representative Michael Oxley (R-OH) has announced the introduction of legislation called the “Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 1999,” which would prohibit the FCC from continuing its proceeding on the creation of a low power radio service, as well as prohibit the FCC from ever being able to consider such a service again.
Oxley has already issued a press release on his new bill. It is nothing more than the “party line” we have all already heard from the National Association of Broadcasters, its members and, most importantly, the lobbying force it controls. Continue reading “The End-Run Begins”

Official Reply Comments on LPFM

Another important deadline has come and gone in the FCC’s current proceeding to create a low power FM radio service. Back in August, public Comments on the proposal were due – the latest round of debate has been conducted via Reply Comments, which give anyone the opportunity to rebut something someone else said during the Comment phase.
I have to admit these weren’t worded nearly as diplomatically as my original Comments were, but, hey, at this point everyone’s arguments are on the table, and the time to be tactful is running short.
Reply Comments were due to the FCC November 15th; it will take the next step on the proposal within the next few months. Continue reading “Official Reply Comments on LPFM”

Same Old Story

As free radio advocates hold hope for the future, it never hurts to look back.
In less than two weeks, the FCC may take the next step in creating a legal low power FM radio service, providing more “meat” for the relatively skeletal vision the agency has outlined so far. What the Commission does in the near future will either be a big step forward or one back closer to the drawing board.
At the same time, it’s also important to note that the Commissioner most supportive of the proposal – the Chairman, William Kennard – is a little more than halfway through his term in office. He is not well-liked in Congress for giving LPFM a chance, and it’s likely pressures may be brought to bear that could cause his ouster. Without Kennard, this proposal will die. Continue reading “Same Old Story”

After the Bust

As the number of pirate stations in the U.S. has risen, the level of work for the FCC’s enforcement folks has also risen dramatically. This comes in the face of a waning cycle of FCC budget cuts, which forced the agency’s “police” apparatus to consolidate into regional offices.
Now, the FCC has announced the creation of a new “enforcement bureau” dedicated to policing the American airwaves. Under the previous system, the friendly field agents pirates occasionally encounter drew their pay from the Compliance and Information Bureau (CIB).
The move is part of what’s called “A New FCC for the 21st Century,” but it’s actually growth for the agency. Amoeba-like, the CIB has split and multiplied – now the “radio cops” have their own whole bureau to play with! Continue reading “After the Bust”