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Monday, June 12, 2006

FCC contacts fewer microradio stations more often

By Tom Roe

The Federal Communications Commission is contacting about the same number of microradio stations so far this year as last, but targeting each "pirate" more often.

Now landlords of station locations are also being sent warning letters, and multiple people from several stations getting warnings rather than just the station location receiving a letter. (See complete chart here.)

RadioActive SanDiego also received a letter from the FCC a few weeks ago claiming that the online radio station is also broadcasting on 106.9-FM. "FCC agents showed up at the station (my home) today demanding to be let in so they can 'inspect' the station. We told them to go away," explained a member of the collective on a listserv. "There is a local pirate station that rebroadcasts our shows, but it is totally unassociated with us and isn't located at my house. Our website even says very clearly that we only do internet streaming." In another case, the FCC also sent a letter to a Colorado pirate's parents. Clearly, the FCC hopes that harrassment will work quicker and easier then filling out forms and waiting for warrants.

"Additionally, the FCC's enforcement this year is almost wholly confined to intimidation," the DIYmedia blog reports. "Less than one percent of its enforcement activities go beyond the visit or letter-writing stage. In fact, the FCC hasn't even fined anybody yet in 2006... This may be because the agency knows it doesn't have the time and resources to collect all of the fines it might issue."

Power 103.3 (Quad Cities, Iowa), Pirate Cat Radio (San Francisco) and Portland Radio Authority were among the most high-profile stations contacted during the last two months. The California College of Arts may be the first educational/art institution to receive a warning. Students there have created something called Art Interference Radio (which seems to play pop songs) on 87.9-FM (just below the 88, where the FM band starts on many radio receivers). The Silicon Valley-based college seems to be supporting the illegal station, and may be offering a "Pirate Radio/Radio Matrix" class.

DIYmedia also reports that New York FCC agents warned Moises and Juan Cabrera about operating a station at 89.7 in NYC several times this year without mentioning the $10,000 fine the agency issued the duo last year. "Not only do this year's enforcement actions fail to reference the earlier 'punishment,' the FCC has made no moves to turn its earlier threat of a fine into an actual forfeiture," DIYmedia reports. "It is almost as if the agents in New York are just going through the motions." Or that they think fines are a waste of time and have more success with harrassment.

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