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Feature: The History of LPFM
Part 17

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Back to Breaking the Law

While several unlicensed microbroadcasters voluntarily left the air in hopes of receiving an LPFM license, the cutback in the new service discouraged many potential LPFM station applicants - but some are going on the air anyway.

Spurred by the strategies laid out by the Micropower War Council meetings, broadcasters are implementing more guerrilla-style tactics in their general operations. Many broadcasters now move studio locations regularly, or set up to broadcast from special events within large crowds, where the FCC is less likely to step forward to challenge them.

Still, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau maintains that cracking down on unlicensed broadcasting remains a top priority. As spring began in 2001, FCC efforts against pirates were apparently stepped up nationwide. The agency went on a spree of stiff fines, station raids and equipment seizures against stations around the country.

Such boldness has been met by equal vitriol from the microbroadcasters, who vow to get more stations on the air to replace those silenced.

A good example of a rebound in radio activism following an FCC sweep the case of Austin, Texas. In 2000, two high-profile microradio stations were raided and silenced. One station, Free Radio Austin, was hit twice.

Instead of caving to government pressure, microradio activists in Austin are pressed forward on all fronts - some have joined forces with San Marcos, TX-based Micro Kind Radio and pursued a federal lawsuit against the FCC. Others started the "Austin Resistance Radio project," using small, mobile FM transmitters to conduct hit-and-run broadcasts throughout the Texas capital.

Most of the hype over legalization has passed, and the tried-and-true game of cat-and-mouse has evolved. For many microradio activists, the LPFM issue was an educational diversion that has only strengthened their resolve to bring more voices to the radio dial, one way or another.

For some, this includes incorporating new tactics for getting on the air - some of which involve temporarily "borrowing" legal stations' signals.  This tactic "brings the message home" in two ways - it liberates a frequency for public use (albeit temporarily), and it attacks the "legitimate" media directly.

Most of this extreme activity has been limited to translator stations because of their remote and unmanned nature. Such escalation in the war for the airwaves is risky, and the long-term strategy of it is unproven at this point.

Final page --> Microradio and LPFM in the 21st Century -->
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