Two recent articles profile the appearance of new pirate stations in the state. One is relatively straightforward, the other reads like a Puritan beef. The latter station profiled, Dream Team Radio, covers multiple cities with two frequencies. It also has turned the “safe harbor” concept on its head – broadcasting “N-words and F-bombs” during the day and going to “love songs generally free of raunch” overnight.
When the media starts bitching the FCC (and, in the state of Florida, licensed broadcasters and law enforcement) are likely to take notice and make some examples of somebody. Perhaps that somebody will be Doug Brewer, formerly of Tampa’s Party Pirate fame, who closes out the first article with a somewhat damning cameo: Continue reading “Florida Media Complains: "Didn't We Outlaw Them?"”
Pirate radio blooms around the world for different reasons and faces different challenges, depending on where the station is located and the reasons for going on the air. In the United States, pirates tend to take to the air for political reasons: whether it be to protest the corporate takeover of the local airwaves or to challenge the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), putting a pirate station on the air is a signal of open defiance to the status quo.
Nobody has exemplified this nature of struggle more than Doug Brewer. He joined the ranks of the microradio movement early on in the game, setting up Tampa’s Party Pirate 102.1in 1994 as an outgrowth of a small station he installed to broadcast Christmas music at his home during the holidays.
Listeners in Tampa flocked to the station but the FCC wasn’t pleased; an overzealous crew of enforcement agents based in Tampa made it their mission in life to take the Party Pirate off the air. They began with a visit in 1996 and issued Brewer a $1,000 fine for unlicensed broadcasting. Continue reading “Party Pirate Gives it Up?”
The FCC appears to be experiencing a moment of schizophrenia.
On the regulation and enforcement fronts, the hands of the FCC are working in very different directions.
Yesterday, a new volley was fired in the ongoing battle between the radio police and Doug Brewer, operator of Tampa, Florida’s “Party Pirate” 102.1 FM.
There’s a long history to this skirmish, which has flared up twice before since Brewer put the Party Pirate on the air more than six years ago. Continue reading “Party Pirate Attacked Again; Former Pirate to get Second Station”
On Friday, Tampa’s Party Pirate 102.1 received a double whammy from the FCC.
The day’s issue of the Federal Register included a terse announcement from the agency that Leslie “Doug” Brewer and his two-way radio business had been fined $10,000 for allegedly selling an “unauthorized FM radio transmitter” above the legal Part 15 power limit. According to the FCC, an undercover agent placed the order and made the purchase.
Also on March 3, Doug Brewer found out that a Federal court ruled in favor of the FCC in its seizure of two-way radio equipment stemming from the November 1997 raid of his station. The government gets to keep thousands of dollars worth of equipment not remotely related to FM piracy as “spoils” from their military-style raid on his home. Continue reading “Party Pirate Gets Broadside”
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”
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”