News Archive: March 2004
3/29/04 - KFAR/Oklahoma City FCC Update [link to this story]
Reports from someone with Knoxville's First Amendment Radio brings updated info on its situation: the "nastygram" was found around noon Thursday. Then for about an hour station volunteers played hide-and-seek with agents Eric Rice and Rickey Davis from the Atlanta District Field Office (photos available at the station's web site). KFAR shut down and the agents went away.
First Amendment Radio stayed silent until 4pm Saturday when broadcasts resumed with a skeleton operation its volunteers are willing to risk if the FCC moves in the direction of a raid.
KFAR's had at least one contact with the FCC prior to this one. The station recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency (objective unknown) and as of now is asking listeners to call, e-mail or write the agents in Atlanta asking them to cool it.
Also today, insideradio.com (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, thanks to some legal muscle and mud-throwing) bragged today about the silencing of an unlicensed broadcaster on 92.1 FM in Oklahoma City last week. The blurb, verbatim:
With Clear Channel already actively hunting pirates in Florida, one wonders if it will leverage its tentacles to make this a nationwide policy, which would definitely strike a fire under the FCC to up the pressure with its enforcement efforts.
3/28/04 - FCC Visits First Amendment Radio [link to this story]
KFAR in Knoxville, Tennessee reports FCC agents left a "nastygram" at their broadcast trailer digs Thursday afternoon; the station left the air shortly afterward to consider its next move. At present KFAR's web radio stream is still up and running.
There have also been unconfirmed reports of a microbroadcaster in Oklahoma City having contact with the FCC earlier in the week; this station reportedly broadcast nearly 24/7 and accepted listener phone calls. This one can't go into the Database unless more concrete info surfaces.
3/25/04 - WNFC Proposal Collects Endorsements [link to this story]
The plan to demonstrate the power of LPFM with a temporary microradio station chock full o' news and community programming in Ferndale, Michigan continues to roll along. A finalized version of the WNFC Manifesto is being printed this weekend and WNFC is accepting endorsements from anyone interested in expressing solidarity with this upcoming experiment.
You can e-mail WNFC directly with your name and any other information needed for an endorsement, if you're so inclined. A preliminary list of supporters will be published with the Manifesto, but WNFC will accept support (symbolic or otherwise) "until this project is complete, several months down the line."
This would be an excellent opportunity for media reformists to show a little support for their deniable assets putting pressure on from the field. Add a steel toe to the soft-shoe, so to speak. WNFC's received about 400 endorsements so far: most are citizens and groups from Ferndale and surrounding communities, but the list also includes the Association of Micro Power Broadcasters, the Green Party of Michigan, Jim Hightower, the Michigan Independent Media Center, and one LPFM licensee (that's the spirit!).
3/22/04 - Scene Reports: California, Colorado, Oregon [link to this story]
California: Freak Radio Santa Cruz will lose its current station location at the end of April. The hunt is on for new space. The landlord is apparently clearing out the entire building for some sort of redevelopment project, which is a shame because he's otherwise been cool about the station (to the point of facing down the FCC twice). Freak Radio's no stranger to moving - at one stage the station was "homeless" and operated out of a bicycle cart - but it is never a fun experience and this space had been the station's single longest home.
Berkeley Liberation Radio continues to hum along and recently overhauled its schedule. The station's adopted a dues format for fundraising and made out okay at their benefit show last month. BLR's Cap'n Fred lays down the bassline on one of our recent additions to the pirate music MP3 collection (Countdown and the Blastoffs' "We Want the Airwaves").
Free Radio San Diego's Bob Ugly interviewed Noam Chomsky earlier this month about a variety of subjects, working off a list of listener-submitted questions. FRSD moved locations in January and is working on an antenna upgrade to improve its signal from the new digs.
San Diego also experienced a transitory mystery station last month: it broadcast from Qualcomm Stadium during the last weekend in February. The station squatted Free Radio San Diego's frequency and was reportedly running 20 watts (compared to FRSD's 30).
The only thing that happened at Qualcomm Stadium that weekend was the Big 3 Auto Parts Exchange, a huge swap meet for car collectors. The mystery station invited folks to "stop by their booth."
There's something about Qualcomm Stadium and pirate radio. This is not the first time a pirate's broadcast from the stadium premises. During last year's Super Bowl a company licensed to conduct temporary game-time broadcasts on two FM frequencies went hog wild on six and was fined $12,000 for it.
Colorado: KBFR's big benefit concert was so successful that the venue has asked them to do another one. As a result the station may branch out to include a homegrown record label/live promotions component. It's also selling T-shirts through some convoluted process which I think involves cash and the mails.
The citizen push for an LPFM station in the Vail Valley town of Minturn is moving forward: Minturn Public Radio got the preliminary nod from the FCC last week. There used to be a microradio station in Minturn - it sowed the seeds of interest from which the town's LPFM effort grew.
This is doubly good news because Minturn Public Radio's license application was threatened by a competing application from the Colorado Department of Transportation. CDOT is building a network of LPFM stations devoted to road advisories and traffic safety messages. Minturn Public Radio tried to work out the the conflict with the state, who basically told them to suck it. It is good to see the state sucking instead.
Oregon: Radio Free Cascadia International just distributed QSL cards for its shortwave broadcasts conducted in solidarity with protests against the World Trade Organization in Cancún, Mexico last September. RFCI was unique in that it undertook "clandestine" (politically-focused) operations from within the United States. U.S.-based clandestine stations are a very rare breed - even the U.S. government conducts its own clandestine broadcasts from sites outside the country.
3/15/04 - FCC Stymied in Brattleboro Court [link to this story]
A hearing was held today on the FCC's motion for an injunction to silence radio free brattleboro.
The FCC argued that broadcasting without a license is against the law. radio free brattleboro's attorneys pointed to the incredible amount of local support and the fact that (as of now) the FCC offers no licenses to FM radio stations of 10 watts or less.
Judge J. Garvan Murtha was apparently influenced by the strong community support for and logic behind the station's concerns. He denied the FCC's motion for an injunction and - similar to the FCC v. (Stephen) Dunifer case of the mid-90s - asked both sides for further briefs. Those are due in 45 days.
If the FCC stays true to form, having already engaged rfb in the courts, it's very likely the station's bought at least another 45 days of broadcasting. It also helps that the case is being heard in Brattleboro proper.
In related news, a hearing on San Francisco Liberation Radio's petition for the return of its equipment (seized in a raid in October) has been scheduled for April 30th.
3/10/04 - Regulatory Tidbits of Note [link to this story]
A long-delayed bookmarks-cleaning brought my attention to these interesting bits of (relatively) recent note:
1) A joint task force of the FCC and National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) devoted to "spectrum reform" will close its public comment period March 18 on a somewhat nebulous charge to:
Those with healthy senses of paranoia may view this as the opening stage of a historic spectrum sale - and they may be right, for all we really know about what's going on. At the moment four comments have been filed on the "spectrum reform" Notice of Inquiry. A multi-party request was filed to extend the comment period; the NTIA denied it in less than a day. Word is, though, that it is accepting comments via e-mail.
2) Another pending initiative that surfaced briefly in the mainstream media recently was the FCC's proposed rulemaking to allow broadband data services over power lines. It sounds like a dream come true with blazing speed, but there's the potential for a huge RF pollution problem. As the lines aren't shielded, data flowing over power lines can cause heaps of noise, which the American Amateur Relay League warns (crudely yet effectively) could wipe out the use of a large chunk of the radio spectrum. Note the progress of #2 will likely be tied to machinations in #1, and the promotion of more broadband data services is already a strategic priority for the FCC.
3) The FCC's proposed a budget totaling $292,598,000 for FY 2005. Its notes the majority of the 6.5% ($19 million) increase will go toward modernizing equipment, both online and in the field.
This includes $802,000 specifically earmarked for "the purchase of replacement monitoring vehicles including the materials to equip them. These resources will strengthen the effectiveness of the Commission's field enforcement activities, directly furthering Spectrum and Homeland Security goals and objectives." There is, however, no projected increase in enforcement staff.
3/8/04 - radio free brattleboro Wins Symbolic Community Endorsement; Gilligan Goes LPFM [link to this story]
Voters in Brattleboro, VT went to the polls on March 2 and by a margin of nearly two to one voted to support their microradio station in its struggle for "official legitimacy."
For what it's worth, the local paper ended up endorsing the station, too. The court activity is still at the tentative stage, each side having filed papers asking a federal judge to shut the other up.
And yes, Bob Denver is the proud papa of WGAG-LP in Princeton, West Virginia, where he lives. The 100-watt station on 93.1 should hit the air later this year out a of a studio in Denver's home and will play oldies and radio dramas.
3/1/04 - Dutch Authorities Nearly Complete Free Radio Crackdown; Other Miscellany [link to this story]
Been a bit hectic between the last update and this one; this scattershot-ness will likely continue for the next month or so. The site itself still needs some work before it's fully comfortable in its new home, so if you experience a hiccup in connectivity it's just me f*cking around trying to set things right.
There have been several new reports of more pressure from the Dutch authorities on pirate stations in the Netherlands. For nearly a year Agentschap Telecom (the Dutch version of the FCC) has run "Project Etherflits," a nationwide sweep designed to clear the band of extraneous signals so the government can finalize its sale of the broadcast spectrum to the highest bidder. The Zerobase Radio Frequency Policy, as currently written, does not contain provisions for community radio stations - only public and commercial outlets are to share the air.
The government concluded the auction of radio frequencies last May but clearing the dial of pirates, especially in the FM band, has not been easy. In recent years the Netherlands has been home to hundreds of unlicensed stations that enjoyed massive audiences as well as regular visits/fines/raids. Even in the face of Etherflits a few pirates have managed to stay on the air, but most have succumbed to the enforcement onslaught.
Three of the last holdouts are free radio stations in Amsterdam: Radio 100, Radio Patapoe, and Radio de Vrije Keyser. All of the stations have bounced back from raids during their years on the air, but this time the government appears to be serious about silencing them. Last May, Radio 100 took the first blow when the licensee who bought their frequency fired up its transmitter. Radio de Vrije Keyser, at last report, was still broadcasting sporadically, although afflicted by the same problem.
In early February the mayor of Amsterdam gave his police the order to cooperate with AT agents in raids on the three stations. On the 9th they suited up in riot gear and moved on Radio Patapoe, but in Keystone cop-like fashion could not find the station's transmitter and gave up. Public backlash against the forced reorganization of radio now has the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs reviewing the Zerobase Policy with an eye on adding ways to offer licenses to community stations run on the free radio model.
Demonstration/festivals are helping keep the public pressure up: there was a large weekend convergence last June and the and another took place last Friday. Radio Patapoe appears to be the lone station left standing at the moment in Amsterdam - and it can use all the help it can get, including e-mails of support which it is collecting and presenting to local/federal authorities.
Miscellany #1: Berkeley Liberation Radio joints the list of microradio stations with community support now on record. On February 17 the Berkeley City Council approved a resolution of endorsement. Its wording is closely aligned to the one passed by the city of San Francisco and includes the clause advocating non-cooperation on the part of local police in any FCC enforcement action. Didn't help much for SF Liberation Radio, but a symbolic victory is better than nothing, especially if the conflict ever goes to court. Its passage was smooth (6-0, with three council members abstaining).
Miscellany #2: On February 20 the FCC finally signed off on the MITRE report and officially recommended Congress revisit the LPFM issue. The obvious hope is that legislation will be passed that will undo many of the restrictive provisions of the "Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act," but as of yet nobody's talking about attacking the clause that bans unlicensed broadcasters from participation.
It is good to see the media reform movement is taking the expansion of LPFM seriously, but in the current political climate (and it being an election year) I'm hard-pressed to get excited. Especially when it's been clear since November that this would happen, and the impetus is entirely political. Should be fun to watch the fireworks (if any). Meanwhile, the licensee-free route remains your most reliable way of actually getting on the air...
Miscellany #3: the Schnazz is fresh again. And listeners to Freak Radio Santa Cruz may want to catch V-Man's Rockin' the Boat show tonight, where the scheduled topic is microradio and LPFM. I and a representative of the Prometheus Radio Project will be your talking heads for the evening.