Free Radio and Low Power FM

The Free Radio Movement

Radio Transmitter being builtDon't Call It Pirate Radio

For many years, radio has been predominately the province of dull and uninnovative bottom-line- driven corporate management. Top forty rotation, syndicated rightwing talkshow propaganda and centralized national advertising was its sole reason to exist. In the early 1990s, our media collective had the opportuntiy to meet with mini-FM advocate Tetsuo Kogawa, and learn about the possibilities of building our own transmitters and developing innovative local radio stations on low power FM. We helped begin a national movement of mini-FM radio enthusiasts, so-called pirates, who soon inundated the airwaves with several thousand low power FM signals. When Stephen Dunifer of Free Radio Berkeley was shut down by the FCC, it led to the challenge to radio monopoly by the Committee on Democratic Communications of the National Lawyers Guild. After years of litigation, fines, arrests, demonstrations and lobbying, this movement spurred the development of legalized Low-Power FM radio stations. There are currently several hundred LPFM stations across the country, that are a prime example of new wave of community media development in a more participatory culture. I was personally involved in putting KDRT, Davis Community Radio, online as a new LPFM in Davis, Ca.

Some of my early writings on mini-radio were Free radio takes to the airwaves. (1995, April) In Issue 6 of (sub)TEX Austin, Texas; Pirate radio hits the airwaves. (1994, Summer). Boycott Quarterly . Olympia, WA: Center for Economic Democracy; Filling gaps in the commercial broadcast spectrum. (November/December, 1993). EXTRA! New York: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting; This is KXXX, Mission District Radio! (1992) Cover story on pirate radio, in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and in Paper Tiger TV Guilde to Television Repair. Some public demonstrations of "pirate" broadcasting techniques were part of several art installations, including in The Walter McBean Gallery in San Francisco, the Chavez Gallery in San Francisco and the Armpit Gallery in San Francisco.