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.
Doug’s was one of the more flamboyant free radio stations out there – the programming was no-holds-barred and quite controversial. But it was also popular enough to steal too many listeners from the big commercial radio Stations in town.
Tampa’s Party Pirate was a very public operation too, unlike most unlicensed stations, who try to keep a relatively low profile. It even had its own remote van and posted pictures of the FCC agents who first visited on the Net for all to see. The FCC had already fined Brewer, but that didn’t silence him.
One of the FCC agents involved in Doug’s case even publicly admitted that one of his primary goals was to “nail” Brewer and his station.
Now, the Pirate is back from the ashes. On the two-year anniversary of his station’s closure, Brewer has reclaimed his spot on the dial.
What forced him to do it, says Doug, was a recent incident in Texas. There, the owner of a racetrack was granted a special temporary license for a low power television station to broadcast the races taking place to the parking lot outside.
Doing so was patently illegal, but the racetrack owner was either too ignorant of the law or didn’t care enough to follow the rules. The FCC did show up to close the LPTV station down – but the man then complained to his Congressman.
The Congressman promptly got on the phone and gave FCC Chairman Kennard a talking-to. Kennard pulled some strings and got the man a license. The former head of the FCC’s enforcement bureau has since filed an ethics complaint against Kennard for doing the deal.
“This is evidence of outright discrimination on the part of the FCC,” says Doug. “If it’s good enough for (a racetrack), it’s good enough for me. This clearly makes all previous FCC actions against unlicensed stations illegal.”
The legal fine points still need to be worked out – but Brewer himself has applied for a temporary license for the Party Pirate. Trouble is, he’s actually following the rules. And with his record, it’ll be interesting to see how the FCC responds to the second incarnation of Brewer’s station.
Regardless of the outcome, you’ve got to admire the man’s audacity and determination.