Featured Track: "KGO Live Report on FRB Broadcast From Hills, 1993"
Download Now - 2.4 MB, 5:01 (MP3)
If the spotlight sound above wasn't enough, check out this special Bonus Track NOT AVAILABLE on the CD! It's a parody of a corporate radio thug lamenting the growing popularity of the microradio movement. Kudos to Jason Krone for being a Dunifer sound-alike:
Download 'Corporate Radio Thug' - 452K, :57 (MP3)
If Mbanna Kantako is regarded as the grandfather of the modern microradio movement in America, Free Radio Berkeley founder Stephen Dunifer is the movement's Johnny Appleseed.
Dunifer began Free Radio Berkeley in 1993, broadcasting from the hills surrounding his California community. Inspired by what Kantako was doing with Human Rights Radio in Springfield, Illinois, and disgusted by the mainstream media's "rah-rah"-style coverage of the Gulf War a few years earlier, Dunifer built his own FM transmitter and further opened up the era of radio dissent.
As news about Free Radio Berkeley's existence spread throughout the thriving activist community present in the San Francisco Bay area, Dunifer set up a workshop and began cranking out affordable FM transmitter kits to all comers. FRB-designed rigs soon spread all over the country, and with them, the microradio movement spread like wildfire.
The FCC didn't take long to respond to FRB's broadcasts: In June of 1993, the agency fined Stephen Dunifer $20,000 for broadcasting without a license. That set off a five-year legal battle which further opened up the airwaves to microradio.
Twice during the FCC's attempts in the courts to silence Free Radio Berkeley, Dunifer and his legal team successfully fended off the FCC attack, getting a federal judge to deny the FCC's pleas for a court injunction on First Amendment grounds.
Because of this, the FRB case created a "grey area" in the law governing unlicensed broadcasting - was it legal, or was it not? The uncertainty spurred even more microcasters to take to the airwaves of America, setting in motion the overwhelming of the FCC's resources for taking care of "the problem of pirate radio."
In June 1998, federal District Court judge Claudia Wilken finally granted the FCC the injunction it was seeking, and Free Radio Berkeley reluctantly turned off its transmitter. But the damage was already done: hundreds of microradio stations were on the air around the country, and there was no way the FCC could get them all.
Now, Free Radio Berkeley has released a 'best of' CD, compiling highlights of some of the programming that once graced the airwaves on this historic microradio station. The disc isn't completely made up of tape taken from actual broadcasts, although you'll find plenty of them among the 19 tracks included - complete with the static and hiss from the bare-bones setup once backpacked up those hills every night.
Instead of focusing on the station itself, the 'best of' CD showcases the diversity of voices once heard on Free Radio Berkeley - news reports on a variety of activist events, dissident music, original comedy performed by the station's own 'Jolly Roger Comedy Troupe,' and spoken word bits about the legal battle; they're all here.
Presently, Stephen Dunifer is still designing and producing microradio transmitter kits; he's been recently working to upgrade the technical quality of his kits and diversify the range of power levels available from them.
Dunifer has also helped to spread the microradio movement internationally: in 1994, he founded IRATE (International Radio Action Training Education), which has worked tirelessly to help set up microradio stations in Mexico and Haiti - Dunifer's kits were some of the first to give the burgeoning Zapatista movement in the state of Chiapas, Mexico access to the media and the masses.
Proceeds from the sale of Best of Free Radio Berkeley CDs will go to fund these ongoing efforts. If you're interested in getting your own copy of the Best of FRB CD, send $13.50 ($10 plus $3.50 Priority Mail shipping) to the following address:
PMB406, 1442 A Walnut Street
Berkeley, California 94709
Or feel free to contact Stephen himself via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss details.
The bonus track listed above has been floating around on the Internet for quite a while now - much thanks goes to Brad@Partytown Radio for sending me a copy of it to make available to you.
You can also listen to and/or download other Stephen Dunifer soundbites we've got below, taken from our 'Sounds of the Street' coverage of the NAB Radio Convention protests that took place in San Francisco in September 2000:
Stephen Dunifer: Micropower Council of War Demands
Dunifer: Advice for New Broadcasters