FCC Grossly Overstates Anti-Pirate Activity

A paragraph in the FCC’s annual performance report for fiscal year 2012 suggests the agency is on the warpath against unlicensed broadcasters:

The FCC shut down hundreds of pirate broadcast operations, which threaten the integrity of the nation’s communications infrastructure and caused interference to licensed broadcasters, air traffic control frequencies, and other public safety communications. There were $289,000 in penalties and 583 warnings issued during FY 2012.

Specious claims of the pirate threat aside, these numbers were quickly parroted by the Clear Channel-owned trade publication Inside Radio as evidence of a "pirate crackdown confirmed." But there’s no data to back up these claims. Read More

FCC Enforcement in 2012: Going Nowhere Fast

After plummeting in 2011, FCC enforcement against unlicensed broadcasting rebounded ever so slightly last year – but not in any meaningful fashion.

Enforcement Action DatabaseAbout 100 pirate radio stations in 19 states had contact with the federales in 2012, resulting in 245 specific enforcement actions. Interestingly, the vast majority of these happened in the first half of the year; for some reason, enforcement activity took a nosedive in July and never recovered. Read More

Larry Bloch: 1953-2012

Larry Bloch, a founding member of radio free brattleboro, died last month of pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

Bloch was one of those rare and lucky folks for whom activism was a full-time vocation. After working with Greenpeace throughout the 1980s, he created the Wetlands Preserve in New York City in 1989. The nightclub became a magnet for many bands that rose to fame out of the “alternative” music soup of the 1990s. Read More

Human Rights Radio Turns 25

On November 26, 1987, Mbanna Kantako founded WTRA, an unlicensed microradio station broadcasting from the John Jay Homes in Springfield, Illinois.

Legally blind and in his twenties at the time, Kantako started the station to protest the imminent destruction of the housing project by the city and the pervasive police abuse that occurred there.

WTRA would later be re-named Human Rights Radio to reflect the Kantako family’s widening concern with issues of social injustice.

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Occupy the Airwaves

Two decades ago, thousands of people took to the air without permission from the FCC to protest the agency’s draconian policies regarding access to the airwaves. The microradio movement conducted a campaign of electronic civil disobedience, demonstrating that there was plenty of space on the dial for community radio while illustrating just how enriching local access to the airwaves can be. The end result of this campaign was the creation of the LPFM service.

Today, more than 10 years on from LPFM’s inception, unlicensed broadcasting remains alive and well, although the act is not as explicitly politicized as it once was.

This could change. Read More