FCC Raids 15 Pirate Radio Stations In Miami
The bust is being touted as the largest of its kind in history.
In a full-fledged attack on unlicensed radio in Miami, the Federal
Communications Commission announced Tuesday that it recently shut down 15
stations in the Miami area during a raid called the largest single
crackdown on pirate radio stations in U.S. history.
Thirteen of the 15 shutdowns of stations, which were known to air techno
and dance music, took place between July 27-31, according to the FCC, which
serves as the U.S. government's watchdog for communications law. Seized by
court order in the sweep were all varieties of broadcasting equipment, from
homemade components to imported, professional gear, including two
In the statement issued after the Miami operation, FCC Chairman William
Kennard called the crackdown "the most successful, large-scale enforcement
action against unlicensed operators to date." "This commission has enforced
and will continue vigorously to enforce the law against unlicensed
broadcasters," he said.
According to the FCC, pirate stations have the potential to cause
interference with licensed communications, such as aviation and
public-safety frequencies. The recently announced July raid came as no
surprise to some in the well-networked pirate radio community. Some are
saying they'd long ago fingered Miami as a target for a crackdown because
of the large number of pirate stations in that metropolitan region.
"That scene has been raging for a long time, to the point where there
far more illegal radio stations in Miami than there were properly licensed
ones," said Paige, the operator of Los Angeles' KBLT pirate station, who
asked that her last name not be used.
Operating a radio station without an FCC license is a federal crime
can land first-time offenders a fine of up to $100,000 and/or a year in
prison, according to a release from the FCC's Washington, D.C.,
headquarters. Representatives from the FCC declined to comment on the raid
beyond what was issued in that statement.
In recent years, pirate radio has become increasingly popular in the
community as a way to subvert the corporate radio structure. For about
$1,000, enterprising broadcasters can set up a rudimentary-or so-called
micro-radio-station and begin broadcasting their own music or talk
programs. The FCC did not reveal whether any arrests had been made in the
Former Minutemen and fIREHOSE bassist Mike Watt logs regular DJ time
Paige's KBLT, and Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris also has taken a turn at
KBLT's mic. In June, the Red Hot Chili Peppers chose that station to
broadcast the live debut of their revamped lineup, while Pearl Jam have, on
past tours, operated their own pirate station from a van before concerts.
Still, micro-radio-station operators are apparently willing to risk such
penalties to get their voice on a radio band that they say is dominated by
"It's the whole DIY [do it yourself] movement, gone to radio," said
who said she's never been approached by authorities during KBLT's three
years of operation. "[These are] people who realize it doesn't take much
money to say what's really going on in music. Nowadays, one company can own
hundreds of radio stations-this is a reaction to that homogenization."
Many of the stations shut down in the Miami raid broadcast techno, rave or
dance music, according to Reuters. Paige doubted that the type of music
influenced the federal action.
"They've been clearly sweeping the country trying to shut down the hotbeds
of pirate activity,"she said.One reason that Miami boasted so many
unlicensed stations is that the city's flat landscape makes it easy to
broadcast to a wide area from almost any rooftop, she said, adding that the
two 2,000-watt transmitters seized were so powerful that they are almost
too big to qualify as micro-radio.
One factor that may have played a role in the bust, Paige said, is the
recent shutdown of Free Radio Berkeley, a micro-radio station in Berkeley,
Calif., that successfully fought closure by the FCC by defending itself in
court on First Amendment grounds. In July, however, the station was
enjoined from broadcasting.
· Chris Nelson: