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”
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”
Turning on a transmitter is almost like daring the authorities to come knocking. The simple act of being on the air in the first place is illegal; broadcasting without a license is one of the only crimes where the perpetrator boldly announces they’re defying authority while they commit the offense.
Outside of the rule-breaking aspect, being on the air is simply fun. There is no other thrill quite like the one you get from “pirate” broadcasting. Trust me – you will know it when you feel it.
Unfortunately, the fun only lasts as long as it takes the authorities to find you. Eventually, they will. Sometimes, they’ll take little or no action. But in the majority of cases, they’ll shut you down in the end.
That is why any free radio broadcaster should always set up shop with the thought that, one day, the fun’s going to stop. However, you can influence just how long it takes for the radio cops to take action.
To help get a jump start on a long station life, here are some tips of the trade: Continue reading “Expanding Your Lifespan”
Many of the questions I receive deal with what it takes to begin a free radio station. The majority of these folks are looking to set up an FM operation.
While there’s lots of how-to documents on the legality and general organization of an FM free radio station, none answer the most basic question of all.
The following is an answer I gave to a recent email, where the question was, “I don’t know what goes between the outputs of my mixer and the inputs of the antenna, and in what order.” Continue reading “What You Need”
It seems there’s a bit of confusion over the terms “pirate” and “free” when applied to radio. Some associate piracy with breaking the law, while “free radio” seems to be thought of as some sort of quasi-legal community operation.
The two terms, in the eyes of the law, are one and the same. “Pirate” or “free” radio stations both have one thing in common – they both broadcast without an FCC license, and therefore are illegal operations.
Being a radio “pirate” used to be a compliment, until the movement toward legalization of low-power radio stations began in the United States – then, as more moderate activists joined the scene, the term “pirate” was phased out as being politically incorrect.
Leave the United States, though, and most of the unlicensed stations operating out there will still refer to themselves as “pirates,” and they’re proud of the moniker. Continue reading “Risks and Rewards”
Stephen Dunifer, founder of Free Radio Berkeley (FRB), has often been touted as a catalyst to the development of the U.S. microradio movement, and rightly so. He has been through a long and vigorous battle in the courts with the federal government over his 50-watt operation.
As his activism continued, the press finally got wind – hence the nationwide acclaim. Dunifer’s no stranger to working the press. Taken off the air after a setback in his case, Dunifer and FRB has been silent for nearly nine months now. Even so, it really came as no surprise when the following news release showed up today: Continue reading “FRB is Back”
An interesting little email has cropped up among microradio activists recently.
It stems from the recent bust and arrest of the operators of Black Cat Radio in Memphis, TN. The station ops weren’t arrested for the actual act of unlicensed broadcasting, but rather for jacking into the University of Memphis‘ electrical system to to power their transmitter as they broadcast from a parking garage on campus.
The email allegedly came from the U.S. Department of Justice, and it’s reproduced in its entirety below: Continue reading “1998=1984?”
By Ted M. Coopman
Disclaimer: Broadcasting without a license is a violation of Federal law. Those convicted of illegally broadcasting may face fines of more than $10,000 and up to one year in jail per incident. The author does not encourage any illegal activity nor does he accept any liability for the consequences of the use of the information contained in this article. The reader uses this information at her/his own risk. For more information concerning the penalties for unlicensed broadcasting contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
So, You Want to Free the Airwaves?
If you have gotten this far and found this article, I am assuming you know about the Micro Broadcasting Movement and are seriously considering participating. If not, you will want to check out Radio4all for links and detailed information about the Free Communications Movement and micro radio. For deeper background, you may wish to access my master’s thesis on micro radio. This article does not encourage participating in micro radio (although I am on record as supporting the goals of the Free Communications Movement); it simply provides information gathered through researching the Micro Radio Movement and the FCC. I wrote this article to help individuals considering participating in micro radio make informed decisions. Continue reading “Risks and Strategies”
There are many that say it’s no use to try to change something from the inside. Maybe it’s because they’re not sure how. Once again, legal experts in the microradio movement have a bright idea for tactics – use the FCC’s regulatory system as a tool! Written by Peter Franck, a member of the legal team defending Stephen Dunifer and Free Radio Berkeley.
This is a report, a proposal, and poses questions to the micro community. Please share this with groups that are not on line.
In the Dunifer case, Dunifer’s primary defense against the U. S. government’s request for a court injunction to stop him from broadcasting was that FCC Regulations barring low-power stations from getting a license were unconstitutional. The Court ruled that Dunifer did not have “standing” to raise this defense because he had not applied and asked for a waiver of the licensing provisions. In other words, the Court refused to consider the constitutionality of the regulations because Dunifer had not asked the FCC to waive those requirements which seem to make it impossible for a low-power broadcaster to get a license to broadcast lawfully. (The same Judge, early in the case, had expressed great doubt about the constitutionality of the FCC regulations. In this ruling she was refusing to consider the issue.) While we think the Judge’s reasoning is terribly wrong, the fact is that the FCC has been filing this Judge’s decision in other Courts around the country with some success. Continue reading “Working the System”
There’s a lot of good ideas expressed here by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, founder of Black Liberation Radio (Tennessee). The list of options is expanding, including the possible addition of acts of “Electronic Civil Disobedience.”
A CALL FOR A DIRECT ACTION CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE FCC AND THE NAB
There is no more current pressing matter than to deter the FCC and its master, the National Association of Broadcasters, along by various political agencies egged on by them, from harassing existing free radio stations in North America. These raids have included the especially punitive raid on Black Liberation Radio in Decatur, Illinois where the children of the station operators have been seized and the operators charged with bogus criminal charges to make them stop broadcasting. It also includes the recent raids of L. D. Brewer’s “Party Pirate 102 FM” and the criminal indictment and conviction of Lonnie Kobres in Florida. In all, over 162 stations have been harassed and shut down (even if only temporarily) over the last 18 months according to the FCC. Continue reading “Call for Direct Action”