Denver Free Radio Packs It In

Sad news from the mile-high city: KCTS Radio, after a short but spirited game of cat-and-mouse with the FCC, has decided to retire the operation. From a communiqué first e-mailed (now available on the station’s web site), station spoke Carl Nimbus answers, in detail, the question, “So what happened to ‘we’re just going to keep coming back’?”
The FCC was all over us. More than they have the time and budget for. More than nearly any other pirate station in the country….[Denver FCC agent Jon] Sprague and friends were coming faster and more frequently than their counterparts do in markets like LA, SF, NYC, Dallas, Chicago and other large cities. Why would that be? The FCC responds to complaints from licensed broadcasters. They very rarely go out at random to shut down a pirate.
Shortly after KCTS was profiled in Denver’s alt-weekly, a New York-based “Senior VP of Corporate Communications for Clear Channel Communications” wrote a letter to the editor (number seven, slugged “Clear as Mud”) in protest of the maligning her great company received in the aforementioned story (wherein Nimbus remarks, “It’s sad that five guys in Texas decide what gets heard around the country”). To Nimbus and crew, that’s a smoking gun:
Now why would someone from CCC in New York know about and be responding to an article in a local Denver paper (an alternative paper to boot) so quickly?
It became “clear” how this was all going down. Clear Channel was the driving force behind the whole thing. Why were they afraid of a tiny, local, non-commercial broadcaster? Because our signal was reaching nearly ONE MILLION people, that’s why….So what was cheaper for them, to revamp their product to compete with us or to simply use their swing with the FCC to take us out? Well, the rest is history.
Plausible, certainly. Or perhaps, since Clear Channel’s taken a beating in the press for quite some time, it hired some PR minions to scan news databases and sites, note anti-Clear Channel press, and write a response to those stories. That’s pretty standard protocol for PR damage control. It’s also not unheard of for FCC agents to carry a grudge. Just ask Doug Brewer, Tampa’s Party Pirate, who pissed off FCC Tampa office director Ralph Barlow so much seven years ago that Barlow vowed, “sooner or later, I’ll nail him,” on Page 1 of the Wall Street Journal.
It was probably a bit of everything, including the hand of radio broadcasting’s Public Enemy Number One. KCTS’ gear has already been dispersed into the hands of “interested parties.”