Happy Birthday, free103point9

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of free103point9, which initially began as a microradio station spinning interesting sounds from Brooklyn, New York’s Williamsburg neighborhood. It’s come a long way since then:

Largely blank slates, with little in the way of station identification or DJs talking back just-played records, experimental sounds of all sorts spilled out. The concept of “radio art” was just barely beginning to be explored…at that time….[T]he other inspiration behind starting the station was that the radio airwaves were dead zones that needed to be revived. The best way to locally communicate thoughts and new ideas was being wasted by a handful of corporations intent on turning the nation’s airwaves into private mints printing billions of dollars, polluting those airwaves as if they were pouring nuclear waste into national parks. …

With that in mind, the station went mobile, taking the transmitter directly to the people: Read More

SFLR Loses Ninth Circuit Appeal

It only took two weeks for the Ninth Circuit to issue its decision regarding San Francisco Liberation Radio‘s challenge to its 2003 raid. The station basically argued that since it was in regular, cordial contact with the FCC throughout a near-decade on air, it should been extended the courtesy of a chance to convince the judge who signed the warrant why such a move was not justified. Additionally, because radio is essentially an “instrumentality of expression,” the gravity of station raids should be weighed in any court’s mind with respect to its potential to hinder that expression.

Two-thirds of the oral argument (30:27, 5.3 MB) was dominated by SFLR’s attorney, Mark Vermeulen. He started by emphasizing the station’s public recognition and willingness to engage the FCC. He was interrupted quite early by a judge (either William Fletcher or Richard Clifton, I don’t know which) who wanted to know why a station that was openly breaking the law deserved gentler treatment just because they were being open about it. Read More

FCC Creates Another LPFM Loophole, Courts to Consider a Third

Right at about the same time the FCC granted special temporary authority to a pirate station in Nevada to operate without a license, the agency told a group of irate listeners in Texas that they, too, could have a station if they wanted to.

How? Some 263 of them wrote letters to the FCC requesting it deny the transfer of KTPB-FM’s license from a community college to the Educational Media Foundation. The well-known godcaster will flip the station’s format from classical to one of its “alternative” offerings.

Seemingly impressed by the outpouring of support for classical music, thought the FCC denied the listeners’ objections to the license transfer it entertained the option of them applying for an LPFM station license in order to “fill any programming void left by the sale of the station to EMF and change in format that EMF may make.” Read More

Enforcement Action Database Cracks 1,000 Actions

Just caught up on the FCC’s last two months of activity. It’s been a busy winter: 274 enforcement actions for 2006 and counting.

This includes fines, or threats of fines, of $10,000 against the transmitter-hosts of both microstations in San Diego, though escalating the enforcement process up to that level of severity remains mostly outside the FCC’s standard protocol (in related news, the agency’s Inspector General is planning an audit of its regulatory fee-collection process, something not done since 1999). Read More

Microradio, Today and Tomorrow

FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps were in Seattle on November 30th to take more public testimony on the agency’s ongoing media ownership rules review. Reclaim the Media, packed the main auditorium of the Seattle Public Library and provided the Commissioners with four hours’ worth of testimony.

Just two weeks before the FCC’s visit, RtM also organized the Northwest Community Radio Summit, which featured three days of workshops on a wide range of issues. One of those was on The Case for Free Radio in the 21st Century” (1:00:34, 10.4 MB), hosted by members of the Free Radio Olympia collective. It provided a short overview of the history of unlicensed broadcasting and some of the more popular rationales for why it’s still advantageous to be a radio pirate in a post-LPFM world. Read More