Doug Brewer has a thriving radio equipment sales and repair business, but his main love has always been his radio station, 102.1 - Tampa's Party Pirate. After two years of silence following a brutal raid by the authorities, Brewer is risking it all to take back the airwaves around his Florida home.
At a scaled-back 125 watts and a smaller antenna, the Party Pirate may not be as loud a voice as before, but the fact that it's back at all is a feat in itself.
In an interview conducted via e-mail, Brewer says it wasn't a tough decision to go back on the air. "We were already ready. The (new station) site was developed the same week that they raided us 2 years ago."
"The hardest thing was to resist the urge to turn the transmitter back on for two years," admits Doug. "I guess I just felt it was time to do it, and since it's only about a month to Y2K, well, the timing just seemed right."
Why He's Back
It seems that the Party Pirate was sorely missed in Tampa - Brewer knew there was a lot of popular demand to bring the station back on the air.
"It's been two years since they tore us down, and you still see hundreds of cars a day carrying bumper stickers from a (station) that hasn't been on for two years," Brewer explains.
"People were dedicated to this outfit because we allowed them the freedom to speak their mind. We played what they wanted to hear, and allowed them to express their feelings on the air during call-in shows. It just ain't like that on commercial homogenized radio. Never will be."
Those that helped him run the old station haven't deserted the cause - even in the face of the consequences they stand to suffer if busted again.
"A lot of the old volunteers are returning, and the fights over time slots are already beginning," Brewer beams. "Every evening is already booked, with former deejays driving as far as 60 miles or more just to get back on the air."
Sniffing the Wind
The timing couldn't have been better. As the FCC nears another milestone in its proceeding to possibly legalize low power radio, lobbyists for the broadcast industry have persuaded its minions in Congress to propose a law to kill the idea and prevent its resurrection.
Brewer doesn't care about that, though, and it had no bearing on his decision to bring the Party Pirate back. In fact, he's got no faith in the system anymore.
"The FCC isn't all that positive on LPFM anyway," snaps Doug. "The only reason they're pretending to consider it is due to public outcry. The media is not likely to be sympathetic due to the fact that it would cut into their profits, and be counter productive to their effort to control ALL the voices."
Ultimately, Doug thinks the status quo will prevail. "For those of you who are not on the same page, he who holds the gold makes all the rules," Brewer sneers. "In this case, the incumbent broadcasters are making the 'Golden Rule' and believe me, the FCC through Congress will be sure the lobbyists have their way!"
Doug Brewer is not so much leading by example as he is firing back at a system he abhors. But this time around, he'll be much better prepared for the backlash.
Deterrence and Determination
Not very many pirate radio stations have been treated as harshly as Brewer and his Party Pirate were - and none have bounced back to the extent he has. What makes a man take such risks, knowing he's already on the bad side of the powers-that-be?
"I cannot say that I have no fear, but anything worth fighting for doesn't come easy," Brewer admits. "I don't sleep well, and usually am vigilant against the impending assault that I am sure will come."
The last time around, that assault involved helicopters, body armor, and automatic weapons. None of it on Brewer's side. This time, things will be different.
"We are prepared," Brewer warns - to the extent of even booby-trapping the station. "I do not wish to comment on what will happen should they remove a certain piece of gear here. Let's just say that lives will be lost and casualties will be sustained should they not be cautious in their actions."
Surely they won't come in here when there are several heavily armed volunteers manning the station," asserts Doug. "You suppose that they are that stupid?"
Much of this sounds self-destructive. Brewer says it's because of the price he's already had to pay, and it's a fair price to exact from those that will try to take him down again. Frankly, Doug doesn't think he's got anything left to lose.
The Final Chapter?
It might sound alarmist, but it might every well be true. Remember, this comes from a man who spent six hours tied up on his belly, in his own home, while the FCC and various 'law enforcement' agencies methodically destroyed everything he worked hard for and held dear.
His perspective is one tempered by suffering at the hands of those pledged to protect and serve, in the public interest. Not hardly, says Doug.
"Believe me, I did not want to see this happen. But the people who run the world have been planning this for many, many years. Some of us will make it, and some of us will die trying."
Hopefully, it won't ever come to that. Brewer doesn't see much of an alternative, though. When it comes to the Party Pirate - Part Two, he sincerely believes that this time the station will either end with his death or imprisonment. This is not a plea for martyrdom; it's the prediction of one who's already fought the good fight once, knows what the agony of defeat feels like - and won't succumb to that again.
"When I reach the great beyond, I at least will be satisfied in the fact that I did my best to make a difference."
Words of Advice - and a Call to Arms
Following in the wake of the Party Pirate is not for the squeamish or ideologically weak. And Brewer himself knows not everyone may be up to the challenge.
"Best thing I can tell the people is lead or follow," Brewer says. "If you get in the way, you will be eliminated. Sit around and wait till the FCC hands out licenses for LPFM, and you will be too old and incapacitated to do anything with what you will never get."
Get on the air now, and stake your claim to the airwaves before it's too late. Your children will thank you for it !"
Doug Brewer is a man who speaks from experience - experience very few others in the fight to change America's broadcast landscape can stake a claim to. But his options are few, and getting fewer.
"It's all a pain in the ass, but if we all don't get together and do something soon, we will all be a tangible piece of corporate property to be sold or thrown away.
We are 24/7 till the last body falls. PERIOD. Your move, people........"