Friday, December 31, 2004

Almost forgot to write about the most interesting development!

It seems there's a LARGE portion of the population that's getting very uneasy with the consolidation and control of media, so much so that it would appear there are subsets of people from the left, middle and right, looking to pick a fight with the FCC.

I've been approached by some groups of lawyers who are offering to take our case 'all the way to the supreme court' on a pro bono (no cost to us) basis if we get the dreaded 'notice of apparent liability' (the FCC's phrase for 'we say you're guilty and we're fining you and threatening you with jail')notice.

It would seem the legal eagles have looked at a bunch of potential battlegrounds and have concluded KBFR is one of the better places to start. These are local AND out of town folks from the coasts.

So, it'll be interesting to see what happens. There are so many holes in how the FCC is enforcing it's arbitrary 'rules' that many interesting groups, groups you'd never think of as allies, are teaming up to fight how the FCC is running things. Interestingly, this isn't just the usual left leaning anarchist set (although they're part of it). There are ALOT of McCain type republicans fed up with the way things are going as well. I can't say I agree with them on alot of issues, but this set: free speech, local media and access to the airwaves ARE issues we seem to agree on.
anoteherfrst for KBFR. We, at the last minute, found we could do a live broadcast from the Fox Theater of the sold out Leftover Salmon show tonight. Other than the power going out for the entire place, it worked like a charm. Remote computer streaming over wireless over the internet. Beautiful.

An a different note, I talked to Vman, one of the two founders of Free Radio Santa Cruz. Seems he's quite the station and is unhappy with the direction it's taking. He and skidmark bob had a disagreement of some sort and, for now at least, he's not involved. It's a shame to, cause this guys been doing this for TEN years. Longer, continuously, than anyone else in the underground radio world. I offered him a show on KBFR (he can stream it from CA to CO via the internet)... I'd hate to lose his voice and his rockin the boat show. We'll see if he's interested.

We're also getting our first 'remote' DJ from NYC. B9 Punk, an artist who used to live here in Boulder and now lives in NY. She got a small setup that will allow for easy streaming over the internet and we'll be doing her show starting, I think, a week from Saturday. Noon to 3ish CO time.

We also did a live conference with the Chaos Computer Congress (CCC) in Berlin, Germany this week. They piped us into the conference and we broadcast the discussion live on KBFR. It's interesting in that they have a very different set of legal issues to deal with making it virtually impossible to do pirate radio in Germany (although it's alive and kicking in many other parts of Europe). I think we made some new friends in Europe.

Coming up on 5 years on air here. Man... seems like yesterday this whole thing started up by some guy in his basement. Many people and many interations later, we live on.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Another yearly benefit show coming up on Jan. 20th. Biggest yet with name bands and actual expenditures of money to get it all together. This will be the first time we act like an actual promotor. Should be interesting. It'll either do great, or break us. We'll know in a few weeks.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Well, it's verified. Denver Free Radio gave up the ghost. Notice the refernce to 'interested parties'.. I wonder who's got that gear? And what they'll do with it? Something useful, I hope.


News of the Moment

12/20/04 - Making Waves Update; FCC in MN [link to this story]

Michael Lahey's been getting around: his killer microradio documentary will get more screenings around the country next year, one of which will be in April at the Anthology Film Archives in NYC. Also, a professor from the UK recently contacted Michael about using Making Waves as part of an exercise/discussion in a new textbook on alternative media.

Earlier this month Michael also was a special guest on The Power Hour, a talk show carried on the Genesis Communications Network. Not only did Michael get two hours to plug the film and talk about the issues behind it, but they also opened the phone lines. That's where things got interesting:

Napoleon Williams (5:50, 1.4 MB), who's been on the run from the law for the last five years, called in (supposedly from Missouri) to tell his story.

Reverend Rick Strawcutter (6:46, 1.6 MB) also phoned in to complement Michael on the documentary and provide more details of Radio Free Lenawee's skirmishes with the FCC.

You can listen to the complete two hours (in MP3 format) here and here.

In other news, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein and an aide to Michael Copps spent the night of December 7 in St. Paul as part of a continuing series of public forums on media concentration. Hundreds of people showed up to the campus of Hamline University, and many gave public testimony (more than 3.5 hours worth).

My favorite came from Beth Van Damm, a volunteer with Radio MCAD, and an organizer of the Radio Re:Volt conference in October:

"Until the day that the FCC and the NAB recognize that LPFM does not pose a threat...long live the pirates, wherever they may be, who forge ahead anyway, fighting the good fight for our public airwaves." (:48, 193K)

You can also listen to a complete recording of the event (in Real Audio), courtesy of KFAI community radio.

12/12/04 - Dutch Pirate Blowtorch Blowout [link to this story]

It's tough to fully understand because it's all in Dutch, but there was one hell of a pirate broadcast in Europe this past weekend. Radio Koning, Keizer, Admiraal ("King, General, Admiral") took to the airwaves Friday on 97.0 FM, running 11,000 watts out of an antenna more than 100 meters tall.

The broadcast was the result of a combined effort of four pirate station-groups operating in the eastern Netherlands, laid on (in part) to protest the methodical sweep of the FM band carried out by the Dutch government in the past few years as part of a policy of spectrum commodification. Practically speaking, however, it was just one big party.

The actual antenna and transmitter were located just just over the border in what appears to be some German woodland. Reception reports poured in from as far away as Italy. I believe this may have been the largest-ever land-based FM operation ever constructed by Dutch pirates (possibly the largest-ever in northern Europe).

The same day Radio KKA took to the air, Dutch authorities paid a visit to the station, reportedly on complaints about interference to a regional public broadcaster (KKA operated on an adjacent channel to the affected station). Saturday afternoon saw a large multi-jurisdictional German/Dutch enforcement team locate and raid Radio KKA; someone's got the last 8:47 of the broadcast online. Station crew were also slapped with a €40,000 fine (~$53,000).

The party didn't stop Saturday night: part-celebration of KKA's short but bright run and part-fundraiser.

12/8/04 - Denver Free Radio Packs It In [link to this story]

Sad news from the mile-high city: KCTS Radio, after a short but spirited game of cat-and-mouse with the FCC, has decided to retire the operation. From a communiqué first e-mailed (now available on the station's web site), station spoke Carl Nimbus answers, in detail, the question, "So what happened to 'we're just going to keep coming back'?"

The FCC was all over us. More than they have the time and budget for. More than nearly any other pirate station in the country....[Denver FCC agent Jon] Sprague and friends were coming faster and more frequently than their counterparts do in markets like LA, SF, NYC, Dallas, Chicago and other large cities. Why would that be? The FCC responds to complaints from licensed broadcasters. They very rarely go out at random to shut down a pirate.

Shortly after KCTS was profiled in Denver's alt-weekly, a New York-based "Senior VP of Corporate Communications for Clear Channel Communications" wrote a letter to the editor (number seven, slugged "Clear as Mud") in protest of the maligning her great company received in the aforementioned story (wherein Nimbus remarks, "It's sad that five guys in Texas decide what gets heard around the country"). To Nimbus and crew, that's a smoking gun:

Now why would someone from CCC in New York know about and be responding to an article in a local Denver paper (an alternative paper to boot) so quickly?

It became "clear" how this was all going down. Clear Channel was the driving force behind the whole thing. Why were they afraid of a tiny, local, non-commercial broadcaster? Because our signal was reaching nearly ONE MILLION people, that's why....So what was cheaper for them, to revamp their product to compete with us or to simply use their swing with the FCC to take us out? Well, the rest is history.

Plausible, certainly. Or perhaps, since Clear Channel's taken a beating in the press for quite some time, it hired some PR minions to scan news databases and sites, note anti-Clear Channel press, and write a response to those stories. That's pretty standard protocol for PR damage control. It's also not unheard of for FCC agents to carry a grudge. Just ask Doug Brewer, Tampa's Party Pirate, who pissed off FCC Tampa office director Ralph Barlow so much seven years ago that Barlow vowed, "sooner or later, I'll nail him," on Page 1 of the Wall Street Journal.

It was probably a bit of everything, including the hand of radio broadcasting's Public Enemy Number One. KCTS' gear has already been dispersed into the hands of "interested parties."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Great show at the Trilogy Wine Bar last night. 4 bands and a good turnout. We even made some money.

We did learn a lesson though about timing and bars. If a venue is willing to let you use their space for a benefit show, you need to keep that bar open as late as possible with as many people as possible. That last 1-2 hours is when they make the most money (and that's where THEY get the payoff for hosting our benefit shows).

We ended around 12:15.. just ran out of music. We started early (8:30pm) and ended early. The venue's owners wheren't very happy.

It's likely that we'll offer to give them the profit they would have made that last hour from our door take. It'll kill the benefit of HAVING a benefit, but it'll keep the venue owner (who has been a great friend of KBFR) happy and the door open to doing future shows.

I think the thing to do is to always end your benefit shows with a DJ who spins dance tunes. We have a couple in the KBFR DJ ranks and if we'd had one of them there, it wouldn't have been an issue keeping the party going.

So, lesson learned this time around: Keep your venue's happy and always have a backup for music if your band finish early.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Complexity. The gobhoblin of this particular radio station.

Sometimes I wonder if the complexity we use to keep KBFR on the air is really worth it. I suppose it is, but using the internet so extensively does make for a difficult time staying on the air. The internet audio world is still far from 'dial tone' in nature.

Right now, KBFR is down because the damned router in the van decided to reset itself to default, making it useless. Of course, the notes we've got to re-set it up wouldn't work on it and the guy who knows how to do it isn't available. So, we're off the air until we can find the guy who knows how to do it.

BUT, hell, that's part of pirate radio I suppose. Sometimes it's just gonna screw up. Part of running a station with overhead in the hundreds of dollars a month instead of millions like some stations. A little downtime is the price we pay by not being part of (or being able to afford) 'the infrastructure' of radio broadcasting.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I've been thinking a bit more about how so much of the media world has been forced underground in so many ways. Pirate radio isn't so much an underground media as a simple distribution mechanism for media that just happens to be unlicensed.

But it makes me think more about the other media's out there that really have been religated to the underground world. Adult material of all types. Political thought. non mainstream Religious beliefs. Unpopular with the mainstream general viewpoints. Alternative lifestyles. Art. On and on it goes.

For a society that's built on free speech, there seems to be one hell of alot of supressed folks out there. And, it seems, it's getting worse, not better. When the FCC's policies force dozens of ABC affiliates to not air a WWII movie that utters the word fuck (something that, oh my god, actually was said during the heat of battle), well, ya gotta wonder.

I think we owe it to our listeners to spend more time and effort on developing the distribution for these alternative points of view. And I don't think it's something that should really be judged by the distribution mechanism.

I'm coming full circle on this to some degree. A few months ago we shut down the station for a week and did a reset on all the DJ's. Mostly because a few of them claimed it was their right and a form of free speech to say fuck over and over much to our listeners chagrin. And, admittidly, to mine as well. I was just no longer interested in listening to my own station. But was that right?

I have no plans to go back to that type of 'programming' for lack of a better phase, but I do think we need to be tolerant of things we don't like. My tastes are mainstream, but I support the right of others to be as non mainstream as they like. But is it only if I happen to like it? Maybe. But is that really supporting free speech?

No, it's really not.

I think it comes down to the age old question: what is porn? And the age old answer: I know it when I see it. But it runs even deeper. Is porn bad? And even if it is, if someone likes it, who are we to say 'no, i don't so you can't'.

I'm thinking of putting together a radio show, or series of shows, that explores this area. Maybe interview some of the alternative viewpoint folks. The porn makers, the white hate groups, the really out of favor types that have no real voice because they're 'underground'. Who knows, maybe there's even a book in here somewhere.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

We had our regular monthly meeting today. All but one DJ showed, best yet.

We require these meetings and, if you don't make it, your show is suspended for a month (and you forfiet your time slot, making it available for new DJ's or existing DJ's if they want the slot). You can come back the next month, but you can only take whatever slots are available at that time.

We did try something new last month that allowed one group of DJ's (3 of them who do a show together) to do their show even though they didn't show up for the meeting. We instituted a 'fine' that had each DJ pay $15 for missing the meeting. The 2nd time it happens, the fine is $30. The third time it's $60. After that, they're no longer welcome back.

It seems like a good compromise. We'll see over time how it works.