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Feature: Party Pirate Attacked Again; Former Pirate to Get Second Station

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The FCC appears to be experiencing a moment of schizophrenia.

On the regulation and enforcement fronts, the hands of the FCC are working in very different directions.

Yesterday, a new volley was fired in the ongoing battle between the radio police and Doug Brewer, operator of Tampa, Florida's "Party Pirate" 102.1 FM.

There's a long history to this skirmish, which has flared up twice before since Brewer put the Party Pirate on the air more than six years ago.

In 1997 he was subject to a heavy-handed raid by federal authorities and held at gunpoint for several hours while they ransacked his home and two-way radio business. Brewer was also fined $10,000 by the FCC last year for allegedly selling a 20-watt FM transmitter to an undercover agent.

The Party Pirate went back on the air in 1999, on the second anniversary of the first station raid. Brewer had been using a wireless signal studio-to-transmitter (STL) radio link which, according to the FCC, allowed him to store his transmitter and antenna at a Tampa warehouse while he ran the station's studio from home.

Not keen on repeating the 1997 raid, the FCC has now moved to revoke Doug Brewer's amateur radio licenses.  While many in the "ham" radio community frown on pirate broadcasting, others have been known to do it - and the FCC has gone after their amateur radio privileges as punishment.

If Brewer's ham licenses are revoked, he could be hit with another $10,000 fine. The FCC says Brewer's "willful and repeated violation" of FCC rules by running his pirate station "are patently inconsistent with his responsibilities as a licensee and belie any suggestion that he can be relied upon to comply with the Commission's rules and policies in the future."

If he so chooses, Brewer can have a "character hearing" in front of an FCC administrative judge, who would then make the decision on whether or not to banish Brewer from licensed radio.

Such character hearings haven't always turned out badly. Consider the case of Allan Weiner. Weiner earned his place in pirate radio history by running several pirate stations on both AM and FM over two decades; he was finally arrested for broadcasting from a ship in waters off New York City in 1987.

Weiner, too, was given a "character hearing" in front of the FCC, and was subsequently denied repeatedly when he attempted to get a license for a shortwave station. But persistence through the 1990s paid off, and Allan Weiner is now proprietor of WBCQ "The Planet" - a 50,000-watt shortwave station located on his farm in Maine.

In fact, just days before moving against Doug Brewer and Tampa's Party Pirate again, the FCC moved forward on an application from Allan Weiner for a second radio station.

If approved, Weiner would be the proud owner of a station on 94.7 FM in Monticello, Maine - and he's applying for a license which would allow him to operate with as little as 100 watts, only slightly more power than the FCC's LPFM proposal would allow.

The irony is simply astounding.