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News Archive: December 2003

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12/30/03 - Radio Free Brattleboro Seeks Community License Referendum [link to this story]

Another petition drive has been launched by the station - this time in support of an effort to place the question of its legitimacy in front of the community itself.

The proposed referendum question reads:

Shall the voters of Brattleboro give to radio free brattleboro (rfb) authority to broadcast until such a time that a Low-Power FM license is issued to radio free brattleboro or to another non-profit, locally-based, community group which is prepared to offer to the Town of Brattleboro diverse, all-access, non-commercial, community radio?

rfb needs 450 signatures to make the balot in March; that should be no problem considering station volunteers collected thousands of signatures in an effort to demonstrate its "authority to broadcast" to the FCC.

I do believe rfb is the first microradio station to seek such an open and democratic official show of community support; many others have settled for resolutions passed by local government bodies. rfb tried that in November, but the chairman of the town Selectboard substituted a watered-down resolution far from the goal of an endorsement.

12/20/03 - The Paragraphs Lift Bush For Lyrics [link to this story]

Last night I made a rare excursion out to see some live music on recommendation from a friend. Headlining the night were The Paragraphs, a combo band/art project out of Milwaukee that sets music to "found text." They've released albums with lyrics solely culled from Field & Stream magazine and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Major Francis Yeats-Brown's 1930 chronicle of his life and times in India and the Middle East.

Their latest - and most popular - project is "The Case for War," which involves music with lyrics completely culled from George W. Bush speeches on the Wars on Terror and Iraq. Key to this effort is the band's stage presence behind a large map of Iraq, presidential podium, and costumes including the standard suits and incredibly life-like masks (Bush sings, Cheney does lead guitar, Rumsfeld's on drums, and Colin Powell handles keyboard duties; incidentally, Bush is also played by a woman, which you can't tell from the audience's perspective).

Friday night's performance involved "lyrics" culled from Bush's October 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he laid out the "threats" Iraq embodied to the United States. Someone had worked the audience before the set, passing out lyrics sheets so people could follow along with each song.

There is something wonderfully painful listening to faux members of the administration pounding out quirky pop tunes while "Bush" warbles, "Americans must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

In between songs "Bush" retreats to the podium, and actual snippets from the speech are played; near the end of the set "Powell" takes questions for "Bush" from the audience, and "Bush's" responses are collage bits, some of which appear to have been culled from tracks in our (currently offline) Truthful Translations gallery.

During the performance "Bush" made a foray into the crowd and handed out CD-ROMs which contained this video (:30, 3.7 MB), a fake commercial for the "administration's" non-existent album Reasons For War. The only downside to the show was the fact that the vocals were lip-synched, as they belong to a man while the performer is a woman, and there were some points where the stage action of "Bush" didn't match up quite with the singing.

Overall, though, The Paragraphs are onto some funky combination of live collage-propaganda worth catching (although I'm not sure how often they get outside of Wisconsin). I had no idea Dick Cheney was such a guitar god...

12/17/03 - Radio Non Grata Makes Nice Try [link to this story]

Banned from speaking at the United Nations' World Summit on the Information Society last week in Geneva, Reporters Without Borders attempted to stay involved in the debate via pirate radio: it launched "Radio Non Grata" at 95.8 FM last Tuesday and planned to spend the time airing interviews with WSIS critics. People had even gone to Geneva and handed out portable radios with flyers to advertise the broadcasts.

Radio Non Grata lasted less than a day before French police showed up and busted the operation (the station was located just over the French/Swiss border in Ferney-Voltaire). The station's operators were given the choice of going off the air voluntarily or having all of their equipment seized; they chose the former.

12/15/03 - Corporate Pirate Two-Way @ JFK Fined $5,000 [link to this story]

This actually went down a month ago, but it's still worth mentioning.

Gateway Security Systems, Inc. provides security to Terminal #4 at New York's JFK International Airport. Its contract with the airport began on August, 2001, and it inherited a two-way radio system from the Port Authority. In May, 2002, someone contacted the FCC to report unlicensed two-way radio broadcasts at JFK; two frequencies were in use, and they were being used by Gateway Security Systems employees.

After investigating the FCC hit Gateway with a $10,000 fine for unlicensed broadcasting this past August. Gateway pleaded ignorance of the law: less than a month after it took over security operations at Terminal #4, terrorists hit, and it simply never got around to applying for a license for its radios.

The FCC bought the excuse and halved the fine. Summing up its reasoning:

"Furthermore, much of the operation by Gateway occurred during the period after the attack on the World Trade Center, during which every U. S. airport operated under heightened security. In that regard, Gateway focused on its responsibilities under its contract and not upon the ministerial details of the licensing arrangement for radio equipment handed over to it by the Port Authority. Gateway’s unlicensed operation was not analogous to the intentional unlicensed operation of a 'pirate' station operator who operates its station in flagrant violation of Commission rules. In view of these circumstances, we determine that reduction of the $10,000 base forfeiture amount to five thousand dollars ($5,000) is warranted."

So it does appear, in times of crisis, that the FCC is willing to give folks a little slack on the license issue. There exists a little-known section of the Code of Federal Regulations governing radio during times of crisis. According to 47 CFR 73.3542, the license requirement may be waived and informal license applications may be used

"...on a temporary basis, in extraordinary circumstances requiring emergency operation to serve the public interest. such situations include: emergencies involving danger to life and property; a national emergency proclaimed by the President or the Congress of the U.S.A and; the continuance of any war in which the United States is engaged, and where such action is necessary for the national defense or security or otherwise in furtherance of the war effort."

The 2002 Mosquito Fleet deployment in Seattle had "informal applications" ready just in case of a visit, and Free Radio San Diego is also testing the loophole.

12/13/03 - December Amendment One: A Push for LPAM [link to this story]

As part of the FCC's current study of localism, an effort's afoot to lobby the agency to leaglize a form of low power AM radio service. Not only would LPAM be a good supplement to LPFM in general, but it might allow for placement of new community radio stations where congestion on the dial precluds new LPFMs.

Included in this month's A1 is a supplement that summarizes the process for filing comments with the FCC's Localism Task Force, and contains a list of recommended issues to emphasize.