"Diary of an Underground Broadcaster--
5 Broadcasts on Five Nights"
by Mojo Liddy
Aug. 3, 1998--Tonight we set up our equipment at a beautiful point
overlooking the ocean and the western side of the city. It's hard to
believe that what we're doing is breaking the law and that we could go
to jail for it. But then a lot of things about America are had to
believe these days.
The amount of equipment we have to carry around to do this is
considerable. We have a transmitter, a filter, a power/swr meter, and
various cables connecting all three and that's only for starters. We
also have an antenna, a ten-foot mast holding up the antenna, a tripod
that sits on the ground which stabilizes the mast and holds everything
up in the air. More cables connect the antenna to the various pieces of
equipment lying on the ground (the transmitter, filter, etc.).
Then there's the audio source. To make things as light as
possible, our audio system consists of nothing more than a single Sony
hand-held tape recorder/player. That's it. The programs are recorded
at someone's house and then brought out here and played on the little
Finally there's the battery. A plain, old 12-volt car battery,
it's the heaviest thing we have to carry around. It powers the
transmitter, which runs on 12-volt DC current. That's our whole radio
station. Mobility is the key. We have to keep moving to keep one step
ahead of the FCC.
Despite all the stuff one has to lug around, couldn't you see this
becoming America's favorite pastime? The views are spectacular, there's
a certain element of danger involved, and it's a beautiful, warm night.
Can you just imagine it--hundreds of thousands of people all over the
country, nocturnally scaling mountain peaks with transmitters tucked
into back packs, evading the FCC in the cause of free speech? It's a
natural. It's the American way.
It takes about 15 minutes to get set up and ready. A few minutes
into the broadcast we watch the sun go down. We've been doing these
mobile broadcasts since June, when Free Radio Berkeley and San Francisco
Liberation Radio went off the air. We are trying to fill a vacuum.
In June, the federal court decided that the FCC deserved an
injunction shutting down Free Radio Berkeley founder Stephen Dunifer
"and all others acting in concert with him." Prior to the court
injunction micro radio was above ground. Now in the Bay Area it is
Tonight we're broadcasting a segment about South Africa's chemical
and biological weapons program. Was the Apartheid regime's search for a
biological agent to kill certain races of people any different from the
CIA's own hunt for an ethnic weapon? Did the research not have the same
objectives? I think if we ever have a revolution, or at least some sort
of radical change in the way things are run in this country we are going
to need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (or vice versa).
Also tonight, we have some general calendar announcements, national
days of protest coming up: October 1st to 4th, to end the genocidal
sanctions against Iraq (there's one for the Commission), plus a photo
exhibit on the Kurdish struggle for peace running Aug. 6-29 at the 509
We end the broadcast with a little bit of music: a weird mix of
John Trudell and Peter, Paul and Mary. That's it. We've been out here
about two hours. We turn off the transmitter, pack up the equipment,
and leave in the dark.
Aug. 7, 1998--Tonight we're on another little wind-swept promontory--a
different one from the last time. That's another thing about doing
clandestine, underground broadcasting. You keep changing locations. In
practical terms it's not all that helpful in throwing the feds off our
trail. They can track us anywhere and we know it. On some level I
suppose it keeps them guessing to a degree, our moving around and
changing locations like this, and that's probably why we do it: it gives
us a little psychological lift to know we're doing something--even if
it's only a small thing--to help cover our trail. The bottom line,
however, is that the FCC has the most expensive, sophiscated electronic
tracking equipment that your tax dollars can buy, and right now they're
using it to hunt down people who are fighting for your First Amendment
The big news to come out this week is that the FCC attempted to
home in on some people who were doing a broadcast from the East Bay
hills last Sunday night, so we are especially on our toes. The micro
broadcasters in the hills, calling themselves Covert Broadcasting
Services, spotted the feds coming up a fire road and were able to escape
in the dark. The FCC had to go home empty handed that night. Tonight,
prior to going on the air, we discuss what's happened in the East Bay.
We've been posting a lookout all along, but tonight we post two. The
feds do not show.
There's been a rally in support of Free Radio Berkeley today. It
was held this morning at the Oakland Federal Building. The first thing
we do as we go on the air is play a little report on it. Judge Claudia
Wilken has decided not to hear oral arguments on a motion asking her to
reverse her decision on the injunction. The injunction remains in
effect. What Judge Wilken was essentially saying in her decision last
June is that only corporations have the right to own radio stations in
the U.S. Why does that not sound like a decision that's likely to be
overturned in the corporate owned and operated US courts?
The other big news to come out this week has been the bombing of
the two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Why would anyone want to
resist the US government's program for corporate domination of the
world? Why on Earth? The corporate media scratch their collective
talking heads in The Good Guys' windows all across the land. They can't
figure it out.
We air a report about an animal cruelty case too.
We play some music. There's a song called "Wasteland of the Free"
by Iris Dement. When the song's over our DJ says, "And that's where
we're broadcasting to you from tonight--the wasteland of the free."
There's also some music by Bruce Cockburn, and Michael Hill's Blues Mob.
We go off the air at about 11:30.
Our "sign person" comes back and gives us a report on traffic
reaction. The sign person is the person who stands on the side of the
road and holds a hand painted sign saying, "Tune in to 93.7 FM." A long
time ago we discovered the effectiveness of this technique. If you post
somebody at a busy intersection while you're on the air it will double,
triple, or even quadruple your listeners.
People are so attuned to seeing corporate billboards when they
drive down the road. When they pass a person just standing there
holding a simple homemade sign, it instantly arouses their curiosity.
When you're a sign person on a micro radio broadcast, you can see people
leaning forward, reaching for their car radio dials, as they drive by
you. So our sign person comes back and reports that many people were
driving by and giving her the thumbs up signal. One man, she says, even
pulled his pickup truck over and thanked her personally--for playing the
Bruck Cockburn song.
It's been cold tonight up here. All day today it was cold and
foggy and when the sun went down it turned into a refrigerator up here
on this summit. The winds have been especially strong too. Throughout
the broadcast we've had to have people taking turns standing at the base
of the antenna mast, stabilizing it from the wind. It's been three
hours of shaking, shivering and fidgeting in the cold. It feels good
now to pack up and leave this ice cold "wasteland of the free."
Aug. 11, 1998--Hello San Francisco, we're back on the air tonight.
We're in a weedy area with a lot of fog. It's cold, and as the sun goes
down mosquitoes come out and take notice of us in their flight--at first
just a few, then coming on in larger and larger numbers. There's
something weird going on with nature. Mosquitoes in San Francisco in
the fog? In these kind of numbers.
Even the corporate media have begun taking note of some of the
strange things happening in nature, as the rest of the nation swelters
through what may turn out to be the hottest summer on record. But
they'll most likely chalk up this summer's temperatures to "El Nino" or
some other fantasy. But these whining biters are a warning of calamity
to come: global warming, climate change, the melting of the Antarctic
ice shelf? It may be too late to stop it--even if we overthrow
capitalism tomorrow. That, I suppose, is one of the things we are
always trying to convey to our listeners: that time is running out.
Tonight we have music by Franco and A.P.O.K Orchestra Zaire, plus a
reading from Jeremy Rifkin's The End of Work. Also, a program from Dave
Emory featuring an interview with Nick Begich on the HAARP project, and
a TUC Radio program featuring a radio version of Noam Chomsky's movie,
"Manufacturing Consent." The control of the media marches on.
I was reading a Reuters story on the Internet the other day about
Gary Webb, the former San Jose Mercury News reporter who broke the "Dark
Alliance" story on CIA connections to the sale of crack cocaine in Los
Angeles. The headline above the story referred to Webb as a "disgraced
reporter." The story mentioned how his book wasn't selling well. Here
we have a man who should probably win a prize for having produced the
most important piece of investigative journalism in the 1990's--yet in
the corporate media construction of reality he is a "disgraced
We close out the broadcast with some Wobbly music, "The Preamble of
the Industrial Workers of the World," and the "Wobbly Doxology." We say
goodnight and sign off.
Aug. 18, 1998--Tonight we have an article from Public Citizen News
entitled "Product Libel: The Food Industry Tries to Gag the American
People with New Food Defamation Laws." Some music plays--"Mayaya," by
Dimension Costena. We air an announcement about an upcoming protest at
UCSF, where some researcher wants to do an experiment on monkeys,
subjecting them to high decibels of noise--equivalent to a 747's
engines--enough to cause significant hearing loss. Then their brains
will be cut open and examined to determine how hearing loss affects the
brain. What gives humans the right to treat the rest of the life on the
planet this way?
An item of housekeeping: our radio station needs a name. Several
weeks ago one of our DJ's came up with, "Full Moon Radio." It was right
after some folks in the East Bay had done a broadcast under the name of
"Radio Cedar Tree." Yes, the moon was full on the night we came up with
"Full Moon Radio." The name seems to be sticking. So if you're
scanning your radio dial some night and a voice comes out of the ether
saying, "This is Full Moon Radio," it's us.
Now, you might think the name is intended as something of a double
entendre. Perhaps you may think it's our way of "mooning" the FCC. But
that is not the case. Not that the FCC doesn't deserve to be mooned for
regulating the airwaves solely in the corporate, rather than the public,
interest. But the moon is just the moon.
We close out the broadcast with some more music. Then we sign off.
This is Full Moon Radio saying goodnight.
Aug. 22, 1998--Well, the U.S. has done it again--gone and bombed and
killed some more dark skinned people in third world countries. Well, I
guess somebody had to pay for those embassies. (D'ja ever notice how
they never bomb white, Yurpean folks, though?) Our broadcast today
features sound recorded at yesterday's protest at Powell and Market
Streets against Clinton's latest (premature, some pundits are saying)
Sometime during the blur of news footage of events of the past
couple of days there appeared an image on my TV screen of a protest in
The Sudan. The image didn't last much longer than the blink of an eye,
but it appeared to be a huge protest. Maybe hundreds of thousands of
people. One person in that crowd was holding a sign that caught my eye.
It was a hand lettered sign written in English: "No war for Monica," it
said. Those people over there in The Sudan are smart. They know what's
going on. They know why they were bombed.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said overall of our people.
Why? As the news coverage of the U.S. attacks continued, commentator
after commentator came on and raised the "Wag the Dog"
analogy--expressly in order to dismiss it, saying it couldn't possibly
be true. It used to be called brainwashing.
People were also raising the "Wag the Dog" analogy at Powell and
Market Streets--only there they were not dismissing it. Problem is
those people weren't allowed to speak on TV. They did have their say on
the radio, however--on our station at any rate.
In between segments we play some music. Mojo Nixon sings "Burn
Down the Malls."
This broadcast is on a Saturday afternoon, in broad daylight. No
other reason than that things just worked out that way and the group
decided to. But it does feel strange to not be setting up and breaking
down the equipment by flashlight. We are broadcasting at 93.7 MHz,
which is the frequency which had been used by San Francisco Liberation
Radio before they went off the air in June. When and if SFLR goes back
on the air we will vacate this frequency.
Perhaps we will build an AM transmitter set for 810 KHz and begin
jamming KGO. KGO is a member station of the National Association of
Broadcasters. The NAB has declared war on micro radio. No ifs, ands,
or buts. It has. It filed an amicus brief in support of the FCC's
enforcement measures against Free Radio Berkeley several years ago. It
cheered last November when the FCC carried out S.W.A.T. raids against
three micro stations in Tampa, Florida--and again this past June after
the Wilken decision.
Perhaps people should simply start jamming NAB member stations
wherever they are across the country. A micro transmitter wouldn't be
capable of jamming a station as powerful as KGO for more than a block or
two in area. However, if thousands of us started doing this all over
the country, we could create a hell of a lot of interference. "We can't
allow micro radio because it will create chaos on the airwaves!" This
is the mantra the FCC and the NAB have been repeating for five years.
If they continue to attack micro radio stations maybe we should
really give them chaos on the airwaves--this, at any rate, is what a lot
of really angry people in the micro radio movement are saying today in
the wake of all these raids and court decisions. (Funny how the raids
"over there" sort of parallel the ones here.) Unfortunately, it may not
come to that. Why? Maybe because we're just too polite. Or maybe we
lack the killer instinct possessed by those who run corporations.
For now, though, it's time to say goodby. This is Full Moon Radio
signing off, but stay tuned--we'll be back. And in the meantime--burn
down the malls.