Scene Reports: California, Illinois

California: Skidmark Bob just interviewed Monkey of the infamous Pirate Cat Radio. Monkey scored an early copy of Stephen Dunifer’s TV transmitter kit and put Pirate Cat TV on the air six months ago; its 80-watt signal can be seen on Channel 13 in the San Francisco area. Programming consists of a growing catalog of DIVX .avi files on a homebrew server with a terabyte of storage, and the station is actively soliciting more content.
As for Pirate Cat Radio, Monkey says there’s about 30 DJs presently, and the dues-paying fundraising model takes care of their needs. At the end of the interview he says the station will soon “upgrade” from 220 to 1,000 (!) watts, mostly by moving to a directional antenna system.
Illinois: I finally got around to reading the summer ’05 edition of the St. Louis-based Confluence, which was published right before the National Conference for Media Reform hit town. The entire issue’s devoted to the importance of media-making to any reformist effort, and microradio gets large props.
The cover story is an interview with Mbanna Kantako, whose Human Rights Radio is now into its 18th consecutive year of broadcasting without a license in Springfield.
When we first came on the air, it hit the country like a bomb. You know what they were saying. “Negroes is using transmitters, stop em!” That’s what it was like. It wasn’t like “Hey, great move” or nothing like that. A lot of folks sat back waiting to see if they were going to kill me before they started the free radio movement. To me, if you want to use this as a means to get your point across, you don’t have to call it a free radio movement, just say you got good sense to use what’s available.
Defiant and committed as ever, Kantako offers up some sage advice:
Know that what you are doing is right. And then know, that because you are doing right, what goes around, will come around. They will tell you anything to get you not to do it. That is gonna be your first line of defense, cause you’re gonna need some lines of defense.
If you approach it like what you are doing is wrong, then don’t do it cause they are going to crawl all over you. It ain’t going to be the government that’s going to give you the most hell. It’s going to be people you know. The government will send you a letter every now and then but everything they do is calculated to terrorize the people that you know and care about. They get away with so much because people cooperate.
You got to make this beast be what he is. Get up in court and claim you are on the air…. I been to court with these fools a million times on different things and I look forward to going. I really do love going into that court room if for nothing else I am going to educate everybody in that courthouse cause I don’t stand up for them. All rise? Kiss my ass. I’m not guilty of nothing. They ain’t in charge. We just give ‘em the authority.
Ron Sakolsky also contributed to the issue with an updated overview of microradio in a post-LPFM world. The narrative’s a bit romanticized in places and there’s not a lot of references to specific station activity but it nonetheless illustrates microradio’s continued vibrancy.