Archive | July, 2005

RadioWorld Reports that Florida Anti-Pirate Law Having Minimal Effect

If it’s true that the Florida pirate bust that I posted about a little while ago is really the first arrest under the new Florida law, then it would seem that the law isn’t having quite the intended effect. Although, according to a RadioWorld report a non-commercial station manager in Boynton Beach says that

“The pirate problem is not as egregious as it was prior to the state law being passed[.]” … “I know firsthand the Broward County Sheriff’s Department has shut down several illegal operations. It’s making a difference. However, we just reported another pirate to local police in early June.”

But, apparently, the Sun-Sentinel doesn’t know about those Broward County shutdowns.

The report also notes that a company set up to help licensed stations hunt down pirates hasn’t been getting much business. But the vice-president of the company attributes the lack of demand to stations not having the cash to spend rather there being a lack of pirates to hunt.

Still, the FCC claims to have shut down a dozen pirates so far this year, which, if true, would be more than in any other state.

But tracking unlicensed radio activity is a notoriously imprecise endeavor, since a very large percentage of broadcasters keep things on the down low. Florida is also a famous hot-spot of pirate activity, and so it’s very likely that a single frequency may be used by an assortment of stations at different times–or, unfortunately, sometimes simultaneously.

I wouldn’t doubt that the new Florida law has had some deterrent effect, though I also wouldn’t doubt that a lot of current or would-be Florida pirates aren’t even aware that a state law is on the books. The usefulness of the law also begs the question of whether or not Florida law enforcement has the spare time and resources to worry about pirates in the first place.

Right now, I’m just waiting for pirate radio to show up on CSI: Miami.

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First Radio Pirates Arrested Under Florida Law

According to the Sun-Sentinel, agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested two men for running two unlicensed radio stations in Ft. Lauderdale. They are charged with state felonies, based on Florida’s anti-pirate-radio law passed last year. Florida is the first and only state with such a law on the books. And by all accounts this is the first time the law has been used to arrest radio pirates.

The bust was prompted by complaints of interference from a licensed high school station operating at 88.5 FM, just one spot away on the dial from one of the pirate stations, which operated at 88.7 FM.

The pirates were running an uncensored urban format, which apparently also brought on lots of complaints from listeners who thought they were listening to the high school station.

Now, I do have to admit that running a pirate station just one channel away from a licensed station is stupid and irresponsible, since it is almost impossible not to cause interference.

The Sun-Sentinal article doesn’t say anything about how much power the pirates were running, but a video from WB39 news linked to the story has one of the Florida agents inventorying a 10,000 watt transmitter.

I find 10 kilowatts almost unbelievable, although possible. And if these guy really were running 10k just one adjacent away from a licensed station, then they really were cruising for a bruising — though I don’t agree with locking them up.

The Sun-Sentinel article tangentially mentions the possibility of the pirates mucking with public safety, with a spokesperson for the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement claiming that the pirates would “drown out emergency broadcasts such as weather and Amber alerts.” Nevermind that you could tune to any other station on the dial for that info.

The WB39 piece takes the threat to public safety hysteria much further, noting the stations’ proximity to a local airport and saying that the stations could have interfered with aircraft communications.

This line of scare tacitcs is trotted out every time there’s enforcement against an unlicensed station, and yet there are no confirmed or proven instances of a pirate actually causing interference. It’s all just FUD designed to make the public scared of pirates — if you can’t get them upset about “chaos” on the airwaves, then maybe you can convince them that airplanes will fall out of the sky.

Nevertheless, if the information reported about their stations is true, these two guys in Ft. Lauderdale were not running a smart operation. Anyone thinking about running an unlicensed station can learn a thing or two from their counterexample.

Pick a good frequency at least two channels away from another station. Run a clean signal with limiting to keep your rig from overmodulating. Run only as much power as you really need to. And maybe keep the swearing limited to evening hours.

There are no guarantees, but like other mildly-illegal practices such as speeding on the highway or smoking pot, there are things you can do that can greatly increase or decrease your chances of getting busted.

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First Indigenous Community Radio Station in Argentina

According to the Inter Press Service News Agency:

The first operating licence ever granted by the Argentine government to an indigenous community radio station is being hailed as a major step forward in giving a voice to this sector of the population, while posing formidable challenges.

The FM radio station, which has been operating without a licence for six years and has yet to be given a name, is run by the Mapuche Indian community of Linares, made up of around 700 members and located in the municipality of Aucapán, in the southern province of Neuquén.

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No Indecency Fines So Far in 2005

Yeah, it suprised me, too, especially given how indecency-happy the FCC and Congress got last year. But then I thought about it and realized that I don’t remember seeing one news item about a fine, just gesticulations in Congress.

John Dunbar from the Center for Public Integrity–who we interviewed at the NCMR for the June 3 edition of the radioshow–has investigated why there haven’t been any fines and reports his findings in “The Cost of Indecency:
Big settlements lead to tamer airwaves”:

After a record 2004, the Federal Communications Commission has yet to issue a fine for indecent broadcasting this year, the longest pause in activity since 2001….

[A] likely cause is the impact of record settlement agreements reached in 2004 between the FCC and two giant media companies. The agreements promise dire consequences for on-air talent and other employees who participate in the airing of any future indecent broadcasts.

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