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News Archive: July 2005

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7/30/05 - Privateers of the Public Airwaves [link to this story]

A closet-cleaning brought about the re-discovery of a Cap'n Fred's World Cruise episode from mid-to-late 2004. His lead-off track was The Foremen's "Privateers of the Public Airwaves" (MP3, 2:45, 2.6 MB), which turned out to be several months' prescient. Although it was originally written following the Gingrich revolution, it strikes a chord still today. I'm kind of surprised it wasn't resurrected and given more play during the latest round of freak-outs over pubcast appropriations.

7/25/05 - Berkeley Liberation Radio Back On Air; FRSD Raid Follow-Up [link to this story]

According to the latest AMPB Report, Berkeley Liberation Radio returned to the East Bay airwaves at 6pm Sunday. The station has also vowed to start web streaming as well, but that seems like a stretch since its web site is perpetually under construction.

More press is available about Thursday's raid on Free Radio San Diego, including another interview with Bob Ugly on Enemy Combatant Radio and some corporate media mentions. While FRSD is not pining for a fight in court (as it does not generally respect the FCC's quasi-police function), it did send preemptive correspondence to the agency shortly after taking to the air, invoking the "perpetual war loophole" in FCC rules as justification to broadcast. So far the agency's ignored that.

7/21/05 - Free Radio San Diego Raided, Won't Stay Down For Long [link to this story]

your tax dollars at workA morning raid brings a gaggle of Feds to Free Radio San Diego, who busted in the doors to take the most choice bits of the station away, including transmitter and antenna. Epithets were hurled and pictures taken by onlookers as agents dismantled stuff. A bounty is out for one of the FCC's swanky cop-like polo shirts. The raid comes more than a month after the station got a standard-issue 10-day warning notice posted on its door - the third warning over nearly three years of operation.

[Do a site search for several more info-links on Free Radio San Diego, including audio and video from past FCC enforcement actions.]

Nobody was in the studio at the time, and FRSD's warrant mentions no people, which means the FCC is still trying to figure out who's behind the action. DJ Spike, in an interview on RadioActive San Diego, notes the station has a strong security culture, which is really helping set the wheels in motion for its return.

"Not that money grows on trees, but it's a lot easier to get money than it is to get good people," says FRSD founder Bob Ugly in an informative chat with V-Man. The station has backup gear at the ready but will now take a moment to consider its deployment.

As for the FCC itself, "they're a bullshit organization," says Bob. Regardless, they are definitely on the prowl, having hit locations in a dozen states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico so far this year. While the frequency of enforcement activity seems to be running at or above last year's pace, the pattern of activity exhibits no major change: visits and warning notices continue to be the front-line tools in the pirate-busting trade.

That other high-profile stations across the country had serious run-ins with the FCC recently is partly due to the fact that these minor annoyances were clearly having little effect - after repeated use - on these committed microbroadcasters. Bob Ugly's remarked repeatedly that raids and the like are a small price to pay for the fight to make the public airwaves real.

From the number of warning letters being generated, the FCC is not being bashful about taking on new cases. Because the agency is complaint-driven it's anyone's guess as to whether more complaints means a more committed effort upon the part of licensed broadcasters and others to "self-police" their local radio dials, or whether it's a sign of heightened microbroadcast activity. My own predilection is for the latter, but it's most likely a combination of both.

The fact that stations like FRSD, rfb, and BLR have responded strongly to their tribulations signals a level of sophistication and commitment within the microradio movement itself that suggests health; a good sign within the slew of bad news.

7/10/05 - Test Cases for Florida's Anti-Pirate Law [link to this story]

Two men were arrested on the last day of June for running unlicensed stations in Broward County, Florida. They're being charged with felonies under a new state law and face up to five years in prison. A pirate-busting sheriff's detective seems pleased with his handiwork, but it's been nearly a year since the law went on the books and this is the first action to speak of. Signal Finder, those pirate-hunters for hire - are not making out like they'd hoped.

A pending petition from the American Radio Relay League to the FCC, which asks the agency to declare the Florida law null and void (by federal preemption) may not be ruled on for several more months. Perhaps the state will rush its prosecution in hopes of beating the FCC to a resolution. The south Florida scene has certainly transcended microbroadcasting, sounding like a little slice of London - if not so much on the air then in the modus operandi.

7/9/05 - Enforcement Action Database Update [link to this story]

I've added several dozen entries to the Database, bringing the total number of enforcement actions catalogued above 500. This includes a slew of activity in 2005 and the backfilling of information from 2001 forward. New York overtakes California as the second-hottest spot in the nation (yet Florida still outpaces all with ease); November flashes past July as the busiest month for pirate-busting.

While it appears that FCC enforcement activity against microbroadcasters has ramped up in the post-LPFM rulemaking years, it's important to remember that a single station is often responsible for several data points, as field agents often make repeated visits and attempts to inspect a station before escalating matters.

It would also seem that the FCC's followed through somewhat on its threats to speed up the escalation protocol in the direction of monetary penalties, although no evidence exists to suggest that the agency has improved its abysmal collection rate, and the amount of revenue generated by going after unlicensed broadcasters still pales in comparison to the resources expended in the policing process.