Micropower Radio & Food Not Bombs in TIME Magazine FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 16 Apr 1998 11:07:44 -0700 (PDT)


FWD from TIME Magazine, APRIL 20, 1998 VOL. 151 NO. 15
See also Stephen Dunifer (http://www.radio4all.org)

"Fear and Transmitting,"...was catered by Food Not Bombs, a group that
collects unused groceries from supermarkets and restaurants to be served to
the homeless....."This is about free speech," says Dunifer, presiding at
the guerrilla gathering. "The FCC excludes all but the wealthy from having
a voice. It should open the spectrum to noncommercial community radio."
--excerpts from Time article below


  RADIO FREE AMERICA
  A merry band of broadcast buccaneers
  conspire to crank up their volume

  By MARGOT HORNBLOWER /LAS VEGAS


More than 100,000 prosperous conventioneers registered here last week for
the broadcasting industry's annual trade bash. They included engineers, ad
salesmen, station execs, computer techies, disk jockeys, videographers, all
wearing National Association of Broadcasters badges, most of them basking
in record profits.

They paid little heed to a score of boisterous protesters enacting an oddly
surreal, '60s-style pageant outside the vast convention hall: long-haired,
body-pierced youths waved hand-painted signs with such slogans as SMALL IS
BEAUTIFUL and DON'T LET THEM NAB OUR AIRWAVES; a 30-ft. red, white and blue
banner proclaimed MICROPOWER; and a red-bearded man in sandals and beret
cried out, "Communication is your divine right whether you're a human being
or a dog or a lizard! Bring back the village square! Let microtransmitters
bloom in every town and city!"

But behind the scenes of this little time warp, a vast drama is unfolding.
Since passage of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, 4,000 of the
11,000 radio stations in the U.S. have changed hands, many of them gobbled
up by small chains or media conglomerates. Result: a rapid dwindling of
local programming in favor of standardized music, talk and news, often
packaged in distant corporate headquarters. "People are totally offended by
what's on the air," attorney Louis Hiken told an NAB panel last week,
deploring coast-to-coast "easy-listening stations selling Dodge Caravans,
beer and tampons."

The dearth of community broadcasting has spurred a sudden proliferation of
microbroadcasters, renegade radio buffs who mount their own low-wattage
stations, flouting FCC licensing rules. Between 500 and 1,000 are estimated
to be operating nationwide, up from a handful five years ago. Hence, the
rebels on the Las Vegas Convention Center sidewalk, whose own three-day
counterconvention, dubbed "Fear and Transmitting," took place in a rundown
Unitarian  Fellowship hall across town and was catered by Food Not Bombs, a
group that collects unused groceries from supermarkets and restaurants to
be served to the homeless. Workshops on legal defenses against FCC
equipment seizures and on how to send programs over the Internet drew
guerrilla broadcasters from eight Western and Midwestern states--mirroring
a similar East Coast conference held in Philadelphia a week earlier.

Five years ago, an eco-activist and self-taught electronics whiz named
Stephen Dunifer founded Free Radio Berkeley, trekking up into the hills
behind the city and transmitting out of his backpack one night a week with
home-built equipment. Soon, with the help of volunteers, Dunifer, 46, was
selling kits around the country, enabling anyone who could raise a few
hundred dollars to launch a station with a transmitter powered by fewer
watts than a light bulb, often covering a radius of only a few miles.
Dunifer co-edited a book, Seizing the Airwaves, and mounted a how-to
Website (http://www.radio4all.org). When the FCC sought an injunction
against his station (motto: "Turn On, Tune In, Take Over"), a federal judge
in Oakland, Calif., turned the agency down on First Amendment grounds.
"This is about free speech," says Dunifer, presiding at the guerrilla
gathering. "The FCC excludes all but the wealthy from having a voice. It
should open the spectrum to noncommercial community radio."

Chatting over vegetarian goodies in the Unitarian meeting room last week
were a 25-year-old Mexican American with the radio handle "Bedlam," whose
Los Angeles station, Radio Clandestino, broadcasts leftist Chicano fare;
Rick Strawcutter, a Fundamentalist pastor from Adrian, Mich., who is
battling the FCC in federal court for the right to air right-winger Bo
Gritz and rail against income tax; two guys from Radio Free Bakersfield who
play the homegrown punk-rock bands the commercial stations ignore; and a
19-year-old Milwaukee, Wis., waitress with pink-and-purple hair who reads
from Winnie-the-Pooh on her Radio Free Bob children's hour. "There's no
difference between microradio and the printing presses of the Founding
Fathers that were outlawed by the British government," says "Brad," 27, a
bike messenger who reads his poetry on Steal This Radio, a 20-watt station
on New York City's Lower East Side.

He was not invited to a panel discussion taking place across town: FCC
officials and industry lawyers drew 150 legit broadcasters with the
question, "Pirate Radio Stations: Will They Be Walking the Plank?"

-Food Not Bombs List     fnb-l@tao.ca
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-archive: http://www.tao.ca/~fnbtor/fnb-l/
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