Is the FCC Going Overboard in its Pursuit of Radio Pirates?

"How would you change FCC enforcement policies and practices?"

Here's a sample of what some RW Online visitors think...

Recent FCC enforcement actions against so-called radio pirates have made the headlines around the country. Is the FCC taking appropriate action against these unlicensed operators?
Yes: 18%
No: 82%

"Micro-broadcasters are a needed element in our individual communities. Only these small stations can actually meet the needs for the average citizens in addressing local issues and local entertainment. We need commercial radio, but we also need the voice that micro-broadcasting gives to the small community."

"The FCC is using Gestapo tactics. Berkley, Aug 2,1998. They should be using their efforts to solve an interesting First Amendment question. This is the United States not some Facsist country. Why is the NAB allowed to dictate the control of the U.S. airwaves?"

"First they need to stop the Gestapo tactics like they used against Brewer and Kobres in Fla. last year. Next they need to seriously consider authorizing low-power FM (and AM) or reinstating the Class D license at the very least. One thing is for certain, if the stations are allowed to go after the micros, this will become vigilanteism at its worst. Soon even the licensed stations would be going after each other. If only they would sue each other out of existence, then it would be worth it."

"Get back to basics. Prosecute the stations that are actually causing physical harm to the band. Aren't our taxes high enough already, without financing high-jinx SWAT team raids against these peanut powered Mr. Microphones?"

"Don't enforce regulations against part-time pirates that don't cause interference; only attack full-time and irresponsible operations."

"I would allow them to operate as long as their equipment was certified and deemed to not cause interference."

"It has become clear in this day and age of the corporate buy-out of America that some sort of LPFM service needs to be passed, so that these 'pirates' can have access to the airwaves and radio will return to local live programming!"

"Start a low-power FM radio service that is available to the public."

"Commercial radio should not be littered with operators unwilling to file for a License. And no policy should be set for a minimal 10 watt channel license to legitimize piracy."

"The FCC should change the rules regarding micro radio. It is clear that too few large corporations own too many stations in every market in the country. This is the main impetus for the so-called pirate broadcasts. The public feels that the FCC is no longer serving its interests, but rather the interests of the large corporations with the wealth and lobbying power. The public has no voice on the airwaves at all anymore. This injustice is being corrected with civil disobedience and illegal broadcasts all over the country. My sense is that such broadcasts will continue until the rules are changed. The FCC would make life a lot easier for itself and the listeners of this country by reinstating Class D licenses and giving the airwaves back to the public to whom they belong under the Constitution."

"Leave them alone unless they are truly interfering with other stations and have a dirty signal."

"Pirate Radio is an act of electronic civil disobedience against the inequities in radio today. Many people who used to work in radio have turned to piracy after being squeezed out by consolidation in commercial media or 'professionalization' in non-commercial radio. The FCC should enforce for actual, shown interference to licensed services, as per the standards in part 73 for broadcast stations. They should not run around enforcing for potential for interference until the low-power FM issue has been resolved."

"Catch up with the 'real' modern times and legalize some form of mradio. Times are a changing, and there a lot of small communities that need what this medium can provide."

"I would like to see FM bandwith space reserved for non-commercial radio. Licensing for these stations should be available at low or no cost, so long as there is no commercial advertising, or huge sponsorships. Wherever there is space unused on the dial that can be used without causing any major interference problems should be open to use by the local communitie(s). DJs should be able to ENJOY the creating of good radio shows that inform and /or entertain the cummunity listener. Radio should return to being an artform and method of communicating truthful information that is unbiased by corporate commercialism and/or rich influential people(s). It can and should be fun and informative. The listener as well as the DJs enjoying radio as creative expressiom, recieving or broadcasting valuable, interesting, and helpful information should be the spirit of radio that is kept alive. There is enough room for corporate commercialism pro-consumer-based broadcasting as well as basic enjoyment of a myriad of choices in content, music,diverse culture, and DJ personnalities on the bandwidth. Folks want programming from DJs who are on the air for the love of creating fine shows for the listener. They want to hear local music, obscure music, local culture, poetry, truthful information. The list of unheard, want to/need to be heard goes far beyond what I can fit [here where I have] submitted to you what I have to say regarding the basic need and rights to free speech/expression over the airwaves that is sadly and dangerously all but dissapeared from the citizens of the so called 'land of the free' America. (Land of the fee, a better discription of what now currently exists here.)"

"I would let the micro radio movement [have] licenses for under 100 watts. What's it going to hurt? But my requirements would be the same [as] found in the AMENDED version of RM-9208 about who may set up this type of station. People operating station equipment would have to have a General Radio Telephone License OR an Amateur Radio license, Technician Class. That way there is some knowlege of transmitters and other electrical stuff that is needed to set up a station without 'interference,' as the NAB claims their would be. Hams regulate their own frequencies now, so why can't they be trusted in something like this?

The AMENDED version of RM-9208...

Our original version set a power ceiling of 1 watt, which we subsequently learned was too low. The AMENDED version of RM-9208 sets up two Tiers, with power ceilings based on transmission ranges: TIER ONE: Power ceiling is a transmission radius set at the HIGHER of: (a) 1 mile; OR (b) the number of miles to the farthest boundary of the nearest community of 500 people or more. "Fast track" licensing. No type approval required. No engineering study required. We call Tier One stations "Neighborhood Stations".

TIER TWO: Power ceiling is a transmission radius of 5 miles. 50 watts would fit in comfortably here, according to an FCC Conversion Table. (It would be a 3-4 mile transmission radius, depending on antenna height, the FCC Table says. In practice, the signal would probably go farther, but that's the "official" number.) Heavier regulatory oversight here: Normal track licensing. Engineering study required. No type approval required, BUT people operating station equipment would have to have a General Radio Telephone License OR an Amateur Radio license, Technician Class. We call Tier Two stations "Community Stations". You COULD get licensed in Tier One and file later for an upgrade to Tier Two, BUT you would have to "take your chances" in terms of competition with others who want to be licensed for Tier Two. Thanks."

"No, I think the FCC is missing the point. For the most part they confiscate equipment and just try to coerce these people off the air. It's as if supermarkets were going around knocking over fruit stands. The fact is, it is not so unreasonable to think that we could authorize 'ordinary people' to operate low power stations for the benefit of their neighborhood. Radio equipment has come a long way, and once properly setup, a station of say 50 watts or so is not hard to operate responsibly.

Remember when you had to have a First Class FCC License? The FCC could allocate some frequencies for this purpose, and monitor for interference. I think there's a need for truly non-commercial radio venues, and that the FCC is being far too considerate to an industry which has become lazy and condescending in terms of providing programming for their audience (i.e., the public whose interest they are supposed to be operating in). I'm advocating non-commercial, small scale, broadcasting. It's not such a big threat, and in fact it could be a breeding ground for good talent. I've listened to some of these stations, and some of them do a very good job serving niche audiences, groups too small or unpopular to be important to the existing broadcasters. These 'pirate' broadcasters are doing the work that most broadcasters don't want to do anyway. They should be legalized and left alone so long as they stay on frequency and within power limits. They should be allowed enough power to have sufficient population available to them to attract a core of listeners and volunteers able to keep things going. Some of the FCC proposals have been laughable in this regard."

"I feel that micro-broadcasting is a fundamental right of free speach. The FCC should set up space to allow micro-broadcasters to operate."

"[Offer] public access for non-commercial stations using less than 100 watts, provided they keep from interfering directly with licensed stations. Decisions amongst micropowered stations to be addressed by participating in a local democratic micropowered radio community."

"Despite deregulation, radio is still a public trust which should not be merely the province of the wealthy. While any small business can operate a free press, the same opportunity is unavailable to the small business person who wishes to exercise those same rights in broadcasting. This is an inequity which must be addressed through a re-evaluation and restructuring of broadcast policy and practices to allow the common citizen access to the "public" airwaves -- especially during this time of airspace overpopulated with big business concerns (ex: SFX Broadcasting). We are overdue to insist that an open forum be created and acted upon."

"What's illegal is illegal. But mass ownerships are NOT good business. Only the rich can play the radio game."

"Devote more resources (more timely response to reports of pirate activity)."

"They really should consider licensing these low-power stations, as it would allow the government to receive more funds via fees and perhaps change the face of radio by giving us commercial broadcasters a run for the money. With groups owning 3 or more stations in a market, the variety isn't there anymore."