It has been one hell of a week, I can say that for sure.
At this point seven days ago, the Grassroots Radio Conference held here in Madison, WI was in full swing and the discussion was full of the future.
The Conference was geared toward what few licensed full-power community stations exist around the country, but the event also attracted plenty of people simply interested in radio and the latest happenings in the medium.
There was also a good contingent of unlicensed broadcasters who stepped out of the shadows and introduced themselves. But what I did not expect was the number of people who I met.
I met "pirates" from well over a half-dozen states (not bad for a bohemian-style event), hailing from areas urban, rural and in-between. All of them had the same general idea: free the airwaves from corporate control. A fraction of the "pirates" I met operated alone; some only had a few key members; most actually operated by collective.
On the Road With Prometheus
When the Grassroots Radio Conference ended on Sunday I hooked up with the famed Pete triDish of the Prometheus Radio Project, an organization dedicated to helping interested organizations get themselves on the air legally with the new LPFM effort.
Pete used to be a "pirate" in Philadelphia but resigned from the station he helped start just before the FCC closed it down for good. Pete isn't opposed to unlicensed broadcasting; he says he's just dedicated himself at this point to helping those most worthy of collecting the legal radio crumbs.
Our journey took us to a few locations around the Great Lakes states; Pete would give his talk about LPFM and how to apply, and I'd interject occasionally with thoughts (some of which earned me quite a glare).
After each talk we'd usually head over to one of the "pirate" stations in the neighborhood to get a good look at their setup and talk some shop.
It was fun, to say the least. It's amazing how creative some of these people have gotten at concealing their stations and planning a responses to FCC encounters, if and when a bust comes. Most didn't care about the consequences, and all said they'd be back on the air quickly after a shutdown attempt.
The Conference, and the tour, showed just how linked the LPFM and unlicensed microradio movements really are, whether the pundits that always get the quotes like it or not. In fact, some of these current "pirates" will likely be involved in a great number of legal LPFM stations, if and when they get on the air - whether the FCC likes it or not, it will not be able to shut these people up.
There's a real movement out there, folks, of fed-up people - and the stakes are a lot bigger than radio diversity. From just the slice I recently got to experience, I can say with certainty that there's no stopping it.
San Francisco Under Siege
The real event of the year, however, happens September 20-23 in San Francisco - the weekend when media activists of all stripes are expected to converge on the Moscone Convention Center to give the National Association of Broadcasters a headache.
The NAB will be holding its annual Radio Convention there; a website has been set up and flyers are now available for distribution publicizing a massive protest in the works.
While broadcast cronies hobnob with Congressmen over drinks and hors d'oeuveres and educate themselves with panel presentations like "How To Sound Live & Local -- Even When You're Not" and "Marketing Hispanic Radio Today," there could be upwards of 10,000 people outside the building, shouting them down with the hopes of shutting them down.
We will have a chance to confront the enemy face-to-face and speak directly to their greed. Maybe we'll even get to throw a pie or two. There will be no shortage of targets, that's for sure.
If you haven't gotten involved yet with a force for change, become part of one now, in whatever capacity you are comfortable with. LPFM's legalization has only been the tip of the iceberg. The face of things to come is something to look forward to.
To Radio Free Jenifer Street, KRGE, Guerrilla Love Radio, Liquid Radio, The Wireless Virus, Radio Free Morgantown, RFTC, Radio Free Conscience, Radio Bob, Tranquil Waves, and the others I've forgotten, thank you - you've given this soldier in the fight for free radio a tremendous boost in morale. Now let's march!