Martyr No More

Two years is a long time to stay silent. But in the case of Doug Brewer, who can blame him?

Doug was one of those raided by law enforcement and the FCC on November 19, 1997. That day is referred to by unlicensed microbroadcasters nationwide as “Black Wednesday” – when the FCC swept through Florida with guns at their back and shut down at least three low power FM radio stations. One person was even arrested in the sweep.

Doug’s case was one of the most brutal. He was woken up early the morning of November 19 to the sight of a SWAT team and held “in custody” for most of the day in his home while agents methodically destroyed not only his station, 102.1 “Tampa’s Party Pirate,” but also damaged his home and ransacked his radio equipment sales and repair business. Read More

After the Bust

As the number of pirate stations in the U.S. has risen, the level of work for the FCC’s enforcement folks has also risen dramatically. This comes in the face of a waning cycle of FCC budget cuts, which forced the agency’s “police” apparatus to consolidate into regional offices.

Now, the FCC has announced the creation of a new “enforcement bureau” dedicated to policing the American airwaves. Under the previous system, the friendly field agents pirates occasionally encounter drew their pay from the Compliance and Information Bureau (CIB).

The move is part of what’s called “A New FCC for the 21st Century,” but it’s actually growth for the agency. Amoeba-like, the CIB has split and multiplied – now the “radio cops” have their own whole bureau to play with! Read More

Revolutions Begin Locally

re·volt (ri-‘vOlt) n. An act of protest, refusal, revulsion or disgust. See synonyms under REVOLUTION.

rev·o·lu·tion (rev&-‘lü-sh&n) n. An extensive or drastic change in a condition, method, idea, etc.

It seems you can find strong support for low power radio on the local level, but the farther one gets up the government chain (and the greater the physical distance between the governors and governed is), the enthusiasm fades away.

It is the federal government who sets the rules for broadcasting and enforces them. When the FCC knocks on a pirate’s door, they’re not doing so at the behest of city councilmen or county board-members – they’re doing it because it’s the law of the land. Read More

Expanding Your Lifespan

Turning on a transmitter is almost like daring the authorities to come knocking. The simple act of being on the air in the first place is illegal; broadcasting without a license is one of the only crimes where the perpetrator boldly announces they’re defying authority while they commit the offense.

Outside of the rule-breaking aspect, being on the air is simply fun. There is no other thrill quite like the one you get from “pirate” broadcasting. Trust me – you will know it when you feel it.

Unfortunately, the fun only lasts as long as it takes the authorities to find you. Eventually, they will. Sometimes, they’ll take little or no action. But in the majority of cases, they’ll shut you down in the end.

That is why any free radio broadcaster should always set up shop with the thought that, one day, the fun’s going to stop. However, you can influence just how long it takes for the radio cops to take action.

To help get a jump start on a long station life, here are some tips of the trade: Read More

Balkan Busts, Bloodshed Continue

While the bombs might have stopped falling, the casualties in Yugoslavia’s war on independent media are still coming in. In fact, the military respite Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has is giving him more energy and resources to devote to rooting out any remaining opposition and consolidating his power.

It is not a war of words, either. Central to the conflict is radio station B92, a 200-watt free radio station in the capital city of Belgrade. After ten years on the air (and two busts during that time), a third – and possibly final – one happened shortly before NATO bombs began to fall on Serbia and Kosovo.

The Yugoslav central government raided Radio B92, seizing its equipment and briefly detaining its chief operators. After maintaining firm control over the hardware, authorities apparently upgraded it, assembled a new “management team,” and opened up a “new” Radio B92 a few days after the raid – with a signal five times stronger than the original B92 ever put out. Read More