Micropowered radio movement fights unfair licensing policies
Hyper X
November/December 1997

Micropowered radio stations all around the country are firing up their transmitters in the hopes of spreading to their communities news & information not heard in the mainstream media.

FCC rules currently require a large capital outlay, somewhere between $50,000 to $100,000 for licensing and equipment. A federal court case involving Stephen Dunifer of Free Radio Berkeley is still working its way through the court system and may prove to be an important precedent for the micropowered radio movement.

Lately, the number of stations going on the air and going public about their operations has been increasing, which may indicate that radio operators are building their own momentum independent of the activity in Berkeley. For example, a micropowered radio operator has put the number of stations operating in Tampa, Florida at 8! And that is just in Tampa.

Meeting at the Media & Democracy Congress in New York City this past October, micropowered radio supporters had an informal gathering to share ideas about how to handle unavoidable confrontations with the FCC and also to start planning for the upcoming East Coast Micropowered Radio Conference to be held in Philadelphia, PA from April 3-5, 1998 (being organized by West Philly Pirate Radio/Radio Mutiny).

In the past month, a handful of stations, including WDOA and Radio Free Allston in Massachusetts and Free Radio Memphis in Tennessee, have been shut down by the FCC; many think this is in response to a request by the FCC to member stations of the National Association of Broadcasters to help report and terminate the broadcasts of micropowered stations.

A recent issue of Radio World (8/20/97) an industry newsletter reports, "The NAB Radio Board has adopted a resolution urging the FCC to take whatever enforcement or judicial steps are necessary to terminate these broadcasts. According to the NAB, the FCC recently referred 10 new cases of pirate operations to federal authorities around the country for enforcement."

In response to the FCC request, Dunifer & other microbroadcasters drafted and issued the following:

"In response to the direct attack on micropower broadcasting by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) we, as a coalition of Micropower Broadcasters, supporters and interested parties, make the following statement:

By ordering its members to actively seek out and report all "pirate" radio activity in their respective areas the NAB is advocating a direct attack on the free speech rights of micropower broadcasters and the communities they serve. Such actions are fundamentally anti-democratic and typify the behavior of a greedy, mendacious corporate thug and bully. To portray people and communities representing a diverse range of viewpoints and cultures, and who merely want to have a voice, as "pirates" is slanderous at best. We are engaging in protected free speech activity, not skulking around committing felonious acts.

We are faced with a broadcast regulatory structure which precludes all but the wealthy from having a voice. Prior to 1980 there was at least a possibility of obtaining a class D 10 watt license. That classification was removed by the FCC after 10 years of intensive lobbying by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) which sought to establish regional flagship NPR stations and did not want the 10 watt stations in their way.

Without the vast resources of either the NAB or CPB with which to influence congressional decisions and regulatory re structuring, our only option is to do what has historically been done, from the tea dumping in Boston Harbor to current struggles for free expression and basic human rights.

Accelerated by the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the concentration of broadcast media resources into fewer and fewer hands has made the notion of "public service" a bad joke. It is leading to an ever escalating elimination of local origination. Selling prices of broadcast facilities have reached astronomical levels. For over 60 years members of the NAB have been allowed to make an obscene level of profit from a public resource and trust. In addition, in concert with government and corporate interests, they are instrumental in either limiting or squelching the terms of debate on a wide spectrum of issues vital to a democratic and free society.

What are the FCC and NAB afraid of? In a situation of 1 50 watts versus 10,000 to 125,000 watts it has to be something much more fundamental than market share. Based on statements made by the FCC it is clear they have no thought of ever revisiting the issue of issuing broadcast licenses for stations with less than 100 watts of power. What they are doing is issuing large numbers of translator licenses for transmitters with less than 100 watts in order to import an outside signal into a shadowed community. [A translator allows an outside broadcast entity to import its signal into an area not covered by it main broadcast transmitter. In most cases the translator transmitter is less than 100 watts. For example, due to the topography in Northern CA station KMUD has 3 translators serving different areas of the county.] In essence, they are creating a dual standard which restricts free speech activity based upon point of origin by denying communities the right to broadcast at less than 100 watts.

We are willing at any time to sit down with the FCC and the NAB to discuss these issues which have profound significance for our society. As a possible solution we propose a deregulated, low power, inexpensive FM (and possibly AM) broadcast service. Standing in the way of thousands of communities having their own voice is an entrenched federal agency serving not the public interest but corporate greed and influence.

It is not our intent to interfere with existing broadcast services. We urge all micropower broadcasters to properly select frequencies, use frequency stable transmitters, employ harmonic filtering and control modulation levels.

Further, in closing, if the NAB continues this "seek and destroy" agenda, we will fight back. Local broadcast entities who engage in a campaign against micropower free radio stations purely on the basis of their existence will be targeted along with their advertisers for a public boycott. When local businesses advertisers begin to have pickets and leafleters on their doorstep it will become very clear to local NAB members that their course of action is a very unwise one to pursue. In the court of public opinion we will prevail." (Stephen Dunifer, Free Radio Berkeley, October 5, 1997)

You can tune in to micropowered radio news in Gainesville on Free Radio Gainesville, 94.7 FM. We broadcast on Sunday from 5pm-10pm and on Wednesdays from 6pm 11pm. Look for more information in the next Gainesville Iguana about how you can help us free the airwaves in Gainesville! Also, we have a limited broadcast range now. If you can't get our signal, be patient! We are planning on expanding so that we'll reach the whole town.

Write to us at Free Radio Gainesville, P.O. Box 15094, Gainesville, FL 32604.

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