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Pirate Radio Stations Challenge Feds 348

Posted by Zonk
from the arr-sailing-the-airwaves-and-flogging-the-listeners dept.
Thundgelmir writes "Yahoo news has an article about how pirate radio is taking on the FCC. It describes the growing trend of low-power FM stations, and their crusade to be heard across the country and around the internet." From the article: "Over four days, a dozen men and women shyly bumped shoulders as they studied schematics and tinkered with romex connectors, resistors, microphone cords, meters, sockets and capacitors — the stuff of illegal radio stations. 'We're not stealing anything. We're claiming something that's rightfully ours,' he says. His goal is to create FM radio stations faster than the FCC can shut them down ... 'It's always been our position that if enough people go on the air with their stations, the FCC will be overwhelmed and unable to respond.'"
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Pirate Radio Stations Challenge Feds

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  • Dupe. (Score:5, Funny)

    by B3ryllium (571199) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:48AM (#16182183) Homepage
    Wasn't this news in the 1960s? Sheesh. ;-)
    • Re:Dupe. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Silver Sloth (770927) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:03AM (#16182281)
      This has more insight than it maybe looks at first glance. Here, in the UK, the 60's pirate boom was driven by the rise of the cheap transistor radio. Suddenly there were plenty of people who had a requirement for broadcast popular music that the established channels were not meeting. The pirates filled the gap until the establishment changed to meet it (Wonderful Radio 1!!).

      Now we have a new era with a new medium. The consuming public demand/expect that their requirements are met. The interesting question is whether the established media is as reactionary as in the 60's or whether they can meet the needs that the pirates meet.

      • Re:Dupe. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by B3ryllium (571199) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:06AM (#16182301) Homepage
        Well-said, thank you. As to the established media being able to adapt ... in recent history, they've started to show an interest in catching up to their innovative rivals. So this could play out VERY interestingly. But, I fear, whenever the MPAA or RIAA are involved, it may degenerate into a witch-hunt.

        So I hope this all just concerns news and talk radio! lol :)
      • by rucs_hack (784150)
        Radio 1 was staffed by former pirate radio bods anyway.
      • There are parts of London (UK !) where even the regular BBC stations can't be heard due to the pirate stations blasting out low-quality FM. I think there are three problems, firstly that there's very little spectrum space on the FM broadcast band that's spare, and secondly that the "new" Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) system in the UK doesn't have enough bandwidth to cope with the number of radio stations who want to use it, and lastly that it probably costs too much for a radio station to get onto DAB at
    • Re:Dupe. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by letxa2000 (215841) on Monday September 25, 2006 @10:58AM (#16185383)
      What exactly is the point of overwhelming the FCC on this particular issue? I'm pretty fond of driving across town with my radio tuned to a single station and being able to hear that station clearly without it being stomped by a dozen illegal stations on some ilconceived crusade. There is a reason why anarchy isn't our choice of government, and those same reasons are why anarchy of the airwaves is no better than any other anarchy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by weierstrass (669421)
        >There is a reason why anarchy isn't our choice of government

        yes, that the govt would not allow us to make such a choice
  • Rights? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jaruzel (804522) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:50AM (#16182191) Homepage Journal
    We're claiming something that's rightfully ours


    How so ? Last time I checked, one needed a licence to broadcast on the FM frequencies.

    -Jar.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by B3ryllium (571199)
      That is an artificiality, implemented and enforced by a government agency. FM frequencies are merely a collective decision of a bunch of eletromagnetic energy to exist in a cohesive waveform for a period of time, and over a certain distance.
      • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Funny)

        by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:18AM (#16182369)
        FM frequencies are merely a collective decision of a bunch of eletromagnetic energy to exist in a cohesive waveform for a period of time, and over a certain distance.

        And that have commercial value.

        Millions of consumers have receivers in their homes/works/cars that operate with transmissions on those frequencies, so the realist in me says the FCC is chasing them because commercial radio pushes them to.

        Meanwhile, the tinfoil in my hat says it's about Big Brother restricting public broadcast and free communication... oh, and keeping the little guy down, man.
        • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by FormOfActionBanana (966779) <slashdot2@douglasheld.net> on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:38AM (#16182745) Homepage
          the realist in me says the FCC is chasing them because commercial radio pushes them to.


          The FCC does exist for a good reason. The radio space within the US is something that is owned by the people of the United States. The rules that are in place are to protect the masses from having that resource rendered unusuable to them. Citizens' Band ("CB") was established so that individuals could express whatever they wanted on their spectrum.


          The commercial radio stations that play music we don't like, and shove commercials down the ears of listeners, AND screw payola out of artists... also do pay their licensing fees to the people of the United States.


          What you let your government spend the money on is another matter entirely.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bigpat (158134)
            The commercial radio stations that play music we don't like, and shove commercials down the ears of listeners, AND screw payola out of artists... also do pay their licensing fees to the people of the United States.

            I would rather they didn't pay a licensing fee. Having a FCC license has become just another type of property, rather than the temporary right to exclusive use of a public space that it should be seen as. Having this become yet another government slush fund has skewed and corrupted the system wi
        • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@@@yahoo...com> on Monday September 25, 2006 @11:17AM (#16185673)
          he realist in me says the FCC is chasing them because commercial radio pushes them to.

          No, the FCC is chasing them because radio is and has always been the primary means of conveying emergency information. Television is a lot less reliable on both ends (though that's one of the main reasons the FCC regulates the television spectrum too).

          Commercial radio stations have legal requirements for broadcasting emergency signals. Pirate radio stations obviously do not. It is literally a matter of public safety.

          And if you don't believe it, ask any New Yorker that lived through 9/11 and the blackout 2 years ago. Most local TV stations were initially knocked off the air on 9/11, and during the blackout there was no TV at all. Everybody got their info by radio. (It's not just information, either - the Emergency Alert System is an automated system triggered by the signals sent over radio and TV.)

          There are good reasons why these frequencies are regulated, and they have nothing to do with money. I hope the FCC continues to diligently go after pirate radio - in this case, regulation is a necessary thing.

          If people want to set up their own radio station, it's easy enough to do it on the internet without running afoul of any laws. Heck, they'd probably get a lot more listeners that way, and reach a global audience. That they continue to try to flout the law in the face of a legal and better alternative suggests to me that they are intentionally breaking the law for the sake of breaking the law. As such, when they're caught I would hope they have that law thrown back in their faces to the fullest extent possible.
      • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by figment (22844) on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:01AM (#16182581)
        While it is artificial there is a really good reason on why FM licensing is there.

        There's only a fixed amount of spectrum out there, and the licensing allows it to be allocated in a fairly efficient manner. If you do not do this, then anybody can blowup anybody else's transmission, and you're left with no reasonable programming (or cellphones for that matter, or satellite tv) at all.

        Now while the barriers to creating a ratio station are quite expensive, the fact is that just about everyone would rather have some mediocre programming (what we have currently) over unabashed chaos that would happen otherwise. There are open bands of spectrum where you can do whatever you want with it, so it's not like it's a massive government conspiracy to keep the man down.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zigurd (3528)
          Is there any actual evidence that pirate FM broadcasters cause chaos?

          Or are they more like squatters, living in the otherwise unoccupied parts of the spectrum? And if they are like squatters, how do you measure the harm they cause? Do they, in fact, cause any harm at all?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Penguinisto (415985)
            "Is there any actual evidence that pirate FM broadcasters cause chaos?"

            In FM, probably, but it'd be minor. OTOH, in 1912 there was ample evidence, which is why the FCC was established in the first place: It was said that distress signals from RMS Titanic were stepped-on, garbled, and the transmission of events surrounding the ship's sinking were tough to pass around via radio because there were so many people stepping all over the frequencies. Not sure of the whole story though, so take it as you will.

            /

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by WuphonsReach (684551)
              It was said that distress signals from RMS Titanic were stepped-on, garbled, and the transmission of events surrounding the ship's sinking were tough to pass around via radio because there were so many people stepping all over the frequencies. Not sure of the whole story though, so take it as you will.

              Sounds like FUD to me. The Titanic was still a long way from civilization (somewhere south of Newfoundland, which is pretty far east of any big cities). Any stepping on would've been done by the other shi
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by z0idberg (888892)
        Aren't property boundaries artificially created and implemented and enforced by a government agency as well? A block of land is merely a lump of dirt in a certain area of space/time, but putting up a fence around it and saying I am using it and that I have a right to it doesn't make it mine. Who owns it and where its boundaries lie is looked after by a central body just as the FM frequecies are.
    • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zapd (29091) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:55AM (#16182231)
      Last time I checked, one needed a licence to broadcast on the FM frequencies.

      Exactly. And it's not that the FCC likes to go after the pirate stations, TFA stated that FCC is complaint-driven, i.e. licensed stations are being pushed off the airwaves. Not polite.

      The pirates should fight for a "pirate" range in the FM spectrum where unlicensed transmitters van freely broadcast. Problem solved.
      • TFA stated that FCC is complaint-driven, i.e. licensed stations are being pushed off the airwaves. Not polite.

        Oh, no! Clear Channel might get knocked off the air! What a shame that would be.
      • The pirates should fight for a "pirate" range in the FM spectrum where unlicensed transmitters van freely broadcast. Problem solved.

        Wow. I thought your post would be redundant, but apparently it's the only one that makes this proposal so far. All of this crap about "sticking it to the man"... the problem is that there are a bunch of people who want to set up low-power FM radio stations that anybody with an FM radio in the area will be able to listen to. Give them a chunk of the spectrum, set some reaso

        • Great idea.

          Let's see, we'll set aside a band, for random people to use. I wonder what we should call it. The Anonymous Coward Band? How about the Taxpayer Band?

          I've got it -- we'll call it the Citizen's Band!

          Okay, okay; I know it's slightly different. Technically the rules on C.B. prohibit broadcasting; it's supposed to be for two-way communication. But the idea is basically the same. The equipment to transmit and receive is widely available, and quite cheap.

          However, I doubt that the Pirate Radio people wou
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dattaway (3088)
            The problem with CB radio is it uses a very long wavelength, requiring long antennas for an efficient transmission. It would be nice to have the 460MHz FRS, 2.4GHz, and 5GHz spectrum much wider so communities can freely hack more uses for them. The public spaces are so crowded and freedom to explore the potential is often limited.
            • This really isn't true. CB is only in the 11m band, which you can easily transmit on using a 1/4 or 1/8 wave vertical -- that's why it got chosen for mobile communications. If you were going to be broadcasting, using a full-wave vertical or some sort of phased array isn't that impractical: it's only 11 meters. If you're spending the money for a power amp and the rest of the gear you need to broadcast, I hope to heck you can at least get something 35 feet up in the air. (Flagpole, gutter pipe...whatever.)

              The
      • Alternately, they could just pick an unused FM frequency in their area; it's not like it's terribly hard to do. With the exception of a few saturated markets, almost any major area is probably going to have some free spots on the dial where, if you wanted to set up shop as a pirate station without interfering with anyone, you could.

        Or heck, why use FM? Practically any radio these days that can get FM also can receive AM, even if people rarely use it; consequently most places have vast regions of the AM broa
        • by AB3A (192265)
          Picking an "empty" channel on the FM band is not nearly as easy as it looks. The problem with broadcasting is that you rely on your listeners to let you know you're interfering with another station.

          There are lots of weather conditions which can skip your signal much further than you would have intended.

          As for the Medium Wave AM band, you could probably put a signal in it during daylight hours and not get caught. However, at night Ionospheric skip turns the band in to an unlistenable morass of stations all
      • The pirates should fight for a "pirate" range in the FM spectrum where unlicensed transmitters van freely broadcast. Problem solved.

        Google HAM Radio. The problem has been solved.
        • ...HAM Radio. The problem has been solved.

          Not quite; sorry. Part 97, the part of the FCC rulebook governing amateur radio, forbids the following:

          - broadcasting (the tolerated exception being QST's from W1AW and the like, because they're intended only for licensed amateurs)

          - music-playing

          - commercial programming, including commercials

          Ham radio is intended primarily for point-to-point or point-to-net communications where there's a live operator at each transmitter, and the only audience is other hams (you as
      • by PhotoGuy (189467)
        The pirates should fight for a "pirate" range in the FM spectrum where unlicensed transmitters van freely broadcast. Problem solved.

        Great idea. Although what about using existing bands which don't require licensing. The Citizen's Band and 2.4ghz/5.8ghz spread spectrum band are two options. The biggest drawback would be specialized gear required to even listen, I suppose, to get the quality required on CB, or the spread-spectrum transmission/reception of the 2.4ghz band. (2.4ghz has limitations on bro

      • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Monday September 25, 2006 @08:51AM (#16183823) Homepage
        Problem is that most "pirate" stations are put together by insane nutknobs that do not take a few minutes and dollars to make it right.

        Here are some tips if you want your pirare radio station to not get turned in.

        1 - plop the station on top of another one... Retarted. the megawatt station will kick you hard, so you get to annoy only a 5 block radius if you are lucky and far away from the station.

        2 - use that $29.99 10 watt transmitter kit off ebay. Can you say splatter? your signal sucks and is splattering all over the band and probably into the avaiation bands. Nothing like that to get the FCC and FAA attention.

        3 - do the transmitter right but overdeviate all over the place. Limiter and compressor is REQUIRED. as you scream your rants into the microphone you gotta make sure to not over deviate.

        4 - spew hard profanity 24-7. Nothing will get you off the air faster than playing all the fowl mouthed 13 year old boy music out there, or screaming FUCK over and over and over again in the microphone. Someone will hear you, not like it and report you. Profanity on the airwaves is more of an issue to the FCC than you not being licensed.

        sadly most pirate radio violates every one of those points.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Last time I checked, one needed a licence to broadcast on the FM frequencies.

      I think that's kinda their point.
    • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Raul654 (453029) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:27AM (#16182399) Homepage
      The United States in unique in that the law explicitely states that the EM spectrum is the property of the American public. (This has been the law for almost a century, infact -- I think it goes all the way back to the 1912 Radio Act) Because it is a shared resource, however, the government issues licenses to use the spectrum. However, "moneyed interests" (corporations - especially clearchannel) dominate the landscape and the FCC does whatever the want, typically shafting the consumer in te process. The Communications Act of 1996 exacerbated the situation, because it removed rules governing how much of the spectrum one company could gobble up. So if these radio pirates are going to challenge the extremely corrupt FCC establishment, I say more power to them.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      Did Edwin Armstrong [wikipedia.org] need a license?

      I don't think that need means what you think it means.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fatboy (6851)
        Did Edwin Armstrong [wikipedia.org] need a license?

        Yes, he did.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sbrown123 (229895)
      How so ? Last time I checked, one needed a licence to broadcast on the FM frequencies.

      I have a license for the air around you. By chance, does that sound silly and absurd?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Technically, its a license to put "stuff" (in this case electromagnetism) into the air around you. I think of it more like polution, which can be regulated.

        I understand the need to regulate broadcast band also, because if you don't it just becomes one huge mess of people transmitting and effectively becomes useless... but the license fees should be a scale that rewards community ownership and local "stuff" as opposed to saying, it costs 10,000$ to apply. That prices out all but the big-boys from playing.

        N
  • why (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikesd81 (518581) <mikesd1@veEINSTE ... minus physicist> on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:52AM (#16182209) Homepage
    Some laws that are in place do make sense. The FCC rules for broadcasting are in place for safety actually. Granted, a pirate radio station probaly won't bring down an airline, but what if it does interfere with radio transmissions in the ambulance and 911 when the operator is trying to say got left on Pine and all you here is salsa music? That's a potential hazard. There are better ways to make statements now than broadcasting over a pirated radio broadcast.
    • I should have alos mentioned that it's not fair if it interferes with broadcasts that stations pay for.
      • well who are they paying for those airwaves? it certaintly isn't me...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mikesd81 (518581)
          I didn't say it was a perfect system. But how would you feel if somone set up a pirate cell cervice and you couldn't call out becuase of interference? You're paying for the service to send and receive phone calls, won't you be a little upset if the peope down the street are talking for free interupting your service?
        • by Imsdal (930595)

          well who are they paying for those airwaves? it certaintly isn't me...

          It certainy is you (assuming that you are a US citizen)! The frequencies are auctioned to the highest bidder (but also subject to a bunch of restraints, most or all of which makes at least some sense), and the money goes to the government. Now, you may of course complain that that money isn't well spent, but that is a whole different issue. There is no difference between money raised from auctioning the EM spectrum and "normal" taxes.

      • by Rix (54095)
        I should have alos mentioned that it's not fair if it interferes with broadcasts that stations pay for.

        I have to disagree with this, and it's the one thing that justifies pirate radio. We need a fairer way to allocate the spectrum that doesn't rest on how much money one can raise.
        • A fairer way? Western capitalism is based around two ideas:

          1. The fair way to ration scarce resources is to exchange them for other scarce resources.
          2. Tokens called money can be exchanged as an intermediate to facilitate transactions.
          If you want to use a means of rationing other than money for the spectrum, then why not for everything else too?
    • Re:why (Score:4, Informative)

      by tsq (768711) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:17AM (#16182359)
      The idea behind Dunifer's project is to promote pirate radio that specifically addresses those types of concerns. He [or, more generally, Radio Free Berkeley] provides not only schematics and tutorials for building a setup that will not interfere with other [licensed] frequencies, but he even sells kits and hosts seminars on doing just that.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      And that happens, does it? You'll be able to cite examples, will you? Let's say, oh, three examples. Go on, brave apologist, Google your little heart out.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054) *
      Granted, a pirate radio station probaly won't bring down an airline, but what if it does interfere with radio transmissions in the ambulance and 911 when the operator is trying to say got left on Pine and all you here is salsa music? That's a potential hazard.

      Well if we are to list every "potential hazard" what about falling towers, tooth decay, and that demon rum?

      Seriously, who would these people be talking to on emergency vehicle frequencies? Just how many households have their household FM radio's tune

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sandman_eh (620148)
        Seriously, who would these people be talking to on emergency vehicle frequencies?

        You are aware the effect of non-linear Amplifiers on a signal spectrum right?

        The point is you have to be careful when you design your RF power-amp not in introduce any non-linearities as it can mean you generate noise on frequencies well outside those in the input signal.

    • I agree that purposefully flooding the airwaves with interfering crap isn't a great idea, but someone needs to do something about the FCC. Do you realize that over-the-air broadcasts (both TV and radio) are pretty much the only forms of mass communication in the USA that are still subject to draconian censorship? I can say "fuck" out loud, in a book, in a movie, on a CD, on the internet, over the phone, but heaven forbid I say it over the airwaves! Ditto for nudity. I have Sirius satellite radio and on
      • by db32 (862117)
        I mostly agree but there is a bit more to it than just that. There is the whole emergency broadcast thing. Where basically every station shuts down and a few ramp up their power to unreal levels and can thus broadcast emergency information. IIRC there is a station in TX that when this system is activated can be heard clearly in the northern states. Been some years since I have heard anything about it, but one of my history teachers worked at a radio station as a kid, that whole cold war era stuff. Well
      • by zippthorne (748122) on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:01AM (#16183907) Journal
        If you go into a public park on a nice summer day, set up a concert quality sound system (read: very loud, but not that good...) and proceed to shout, "Fuck!" into the microphone so everyone in the park is assaulted by your curse-wording antics, I'm pretty sure you'll be asked to leave (and maybe fined or even arrested.)

        Further, you should be asked to leave at the very least. You would be destroying everyone else's enjoyment of a public resource for your own personal interest.

        Now, if on the other hand, you want to use your system to play live jazz music or somesuch, you probably still can't just go ahead and do it; someone else might want to play classical piano or something, the dissonance would certainly also be detrimental to others' enjoyment of the park. So you'd go and get a permit. A permit that's not a blanket permission to do whatever you want, but grants you some of the permissions you request in an attempt to satisfy as many people's interest in the space as possible.

        Radio spectrum is just like that public park. It's a finite (really finite) [doc.gov]* resource that a lot of people want to use. And that is the FCC's job: to allocate that resource in the way that best serves the public.

        And anyway, it's not like you can't say your precious cussword over any part of the spectrum, you can use it as much as you want over your cell-phone, C-band television feed, "satellite radio," and a few other bands, much like you could do the same in a clearing way out in the woods, far from most of civilization. But yes, swearing loudly in a small public space should be regulated, and if the FCC doesn't have the constitutional authority to do so, then we should have a constitutional convention and create an authority which can.
        • by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:45PM (#16191957) Journal
          How the hell did this BS get modded up to +5? A park is a physical place, and its primary purpose is not for listening to music (or political rantings, or shock jocks, etc.) Yes, there's a good argument for laws against noise pollution in a public park. On the other hand, if you choose to tune into a very left-wing, hard rock station geared towards the younger crowd, that's your own damn choice. If you don't like the cussing then oh well, tune to something else. FM, AM and TV is FULL of (what I consider to be) hate speech--they call it "religious progamming"--but I don't complain because no one is FORCING me to listen to it. Your argument is completely absurd--different stations are by definition meant to cater to different tastes. My own tastes exclude the vast majority of programming on TV and on the radio, but that doesn't give me the right to tune to a channel I don't like and then say that we should change it because I don't like it.

          And as I mentioned before, it's not like the majority of the public wants this type of censorship. If for-profit satellite radio companies like Sirius and XM thought they would lose money by airing uncensored songs, do you think they'd do it? Ditto for premium cable channels. When TV and radio stations are not FORCED to self-censor, they almost never self-censor (at best they self-censor only a portion of their channels, e.g. "family" channels), so I cannot see how you can argue that the FCC is only reflecting public desire--it's clear to anyone with half a brain that the public desires access to mature, uncensored programming.

          But yes, swearing loudly in a small public space should be regulated, and if the FCC doesn't have the constitutional authority to do so, then we should have a constitutional convention and create an authority which can.

          So swearing is the only thing that should be regulated, hmm? Hate speech is ok, personal attacks are ok, misinformation and logical fallacies and outright lies are ok, but god forbid I say the word "fuck"? You, sir, have one fucked-up system of priorities.

          Music is art and when you censor a song like, say, Korn's Faget, you render it a shallow, laughable parody of itself... as if you took a picture of the Venus de Milo and obscured all but her face in the name of puritanism.
      • I think you have confused censorship with censureship. The former is the prohibition of expression, while the latter is merely removal of something the people don't want.

        For example, prohibiting talk show hosts from criticizing the President would be censorship. OTOH, prohibiting a talk show host from criticizing the President using foul language is not. While you might not agree with them, the majority of the people in this country do not want to hear foul language on the radio, or see nudity on TV.

    • by Detritus (11846)
      The FCC rules for issuing FM broadcast licenses have nothing to do with preventing harmful interference to other licensed services. They are supposed to allow for orderly and fair access to the FM broadcast band by broadcasters and potential broadcasters. The problem is that the FM broadcast band is a limited resource and FCC deregulation has created a free market in broadcast licenses. This means that only people with large amounts of money can afford to purchase a license and put a station on the air. The
    • Parent Modded Insightful...right...

      First and formost, if it is in the frequency range allocated so that
      public FM radio receivers can pick it up, it is not in the emergency services band.

      The FM radio band is set aside for just that.

      When ppl uses scanners to listen in, its freq range settings
      are not in the normal public FM radio band.

      If they are broadcasting outside the usual band, then yeah they could
      be mucking up the airways, but as this is old hat and has been around
      for decades its very likely they want li
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zigurd (3528)
      The "FCC as a bulwark against anarchy" argument is oversold, if only for the fact that spectrum allocation is a terribly inefficient way to share spectrum.

      Then there is the fact that the FCC is an unelected bureaucratic exception to the First Amendment. Not only is the exception legally iffy, the FCC is insulated from answering to the public.

      Then there is the way that spectrum has become an artificial kind of property, which leads to political favoritism in the way it is allocated, traded, paid for, and reg
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:56AM (#16182235) Homepage Journal
    Except, ya know, people at sea, but screw them.
  • by demondawn (840015) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:58AM (#16182247) Journal
    it is difficult to know what side (if any!) to take on this story. There's no inherent "funny" comment that pops to mind, no well-worn slashdot joke...this is about a very fundamental thing (who "owns" the airwaves) and I think a lot of people on slashdot, and even elsewhere, don't really have an opinion on it. Do we support what is basically anarchy on the airwaves (which, according to the article, could be even hazardous to our personal saftey, though I imagine that's at least a little hyperbole)? Do we support the underpaid, overworked people of the FCC? (So where did all the money from those fines go?) A lot of questions, and at least in my mind, no ready answers.
    • Why federal? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ed Avis (5917)
      The story takes the angle of the little guy bravely battling against unfeeling big government. And that's surely how pirate operators and their listeners see it. But if the range of your FM transmitter is only a few miles, why is it a federal matter? These frequency bands should be left to the states to allocate as they wish.
      • FCC Mandate (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:37AM (#16182741) Homepage Journal
        This is actually a fairly interesting question.

        From today's perspective, where we look at the EM spectrum and see that the majority of it is really suited more for short-range communication than anything else, it seems like something that ought to be regulated at least in part by the states.

        However, the authority of the FCC comes from the Communications Act of 1934, and its predecessor agency from the Radio Act of 1927, which were drafted in a time when most of the radio spectrum in use was down in the HF bands, which travel hundreds or thousands of miles and thus require widespread regulatory authority. From this authority -- which began due to a need to keep civilian transmissions from interfering with maritime wireless service -- they simply continued to regulate as frequencies grew higher and higher, and transmission distances shorter and shorter, until the FCC frequently has a say in things in which there is little or no business for Federal regulation.
    • You usually don't want it. Why? Because what usually ends up happening is that you don't really have it for long, you just have the strong pushing around the weak. Safety aside, we do need something that shares our radio spectrum. Otherwise people WILL step on others. I'm not saying the system we have now is necessarily the way to go, but complete deregulation isn't likely to work well.

      For example: Let's say that, despite regulations, the cell companies come to an agreement to play nice and cell service con
    • by Detritus (11846)
      All fines, fees, taxes, etc. go into the U.S. Treasury's General Fund. Only the Congress has the constitutional authority to authorize spending by the federal government. If NASA discovers a pirate's chest full of gold at the Kennedy Space Center, they don't get to keep a single doubloon.
    • Do we support the underpaid, overworked people of the FCC? (So where did all the money from those fines go?)

      Generally money collected by various [Federal] goverment bodies gets tossed into a general pool to be misspent by Congress. The theory behind this is simple: If the varied and sundry agencies aren't allowed to keep monies collected in fines and judgements, they won't be tempted into increased enforcement as a means of increasing their budget (read empire building).

  • by minsk (805035) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:59AM (#16182255)
    It would seem that the solution to pirate radio is very simple. Look at why they are circumventing the regulations in the first place: expenses and rules. And more the former than the latter.

    The FCC's complaint is interference with licensed stations and/or emergency/critical services. So push prices down for low-wattage transmitters, and the FCC might find that they get more small radio stations following their rules... and that has got to be cheaper than crews in million dollar vans running all over the country playing whack-a-mole.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:14AM (#16182337) Homepage
      It would seem that the solution to pirate radio is very simple. Look at why they are circumventing the regulations in the first place: expenses and rules. And more the former than the latter. The FCC's complaint is interference with licensed stations and/or emergency/critical services. So push prices down for low-wattage transmitters, and the FCC might find that they get more small radio stations following their rules..

      Huh? Commercial low wattage transmitters are about as cheap as they can reasonably be ($1k or less). The expense in question is the expense of complying with the rules - not that of the hardware.
      • i think he means push down the licensing prices for low wattage transmitters. i dont imagine the fcc sell the transmitters.
  • It is ours (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:00AM (#16182263)
    It is well beyond doubt that the FCC needs to be changed and the media ownership laws addressed. It is also obvious that the frequency spectrum needs to be regulated however; even a brief look at how the FCC is acting for the benefit of corporations should signal that change needs to happen.

    There are numerous examples to the corrupt nature of the FCC; one of the most recent was the fact that the FCC had reports destroyed that directly contradicted the actions they have taken on behalf to their corporate masters.

    The airwaves belong to the people and should be run to the benefit of the people. Obviously our government is not acting as it should in many areas, the issue is, how to affect change? With only a single political party in the US, I doubt voting helps.

  • ...connectors, resistors, microphone cords, meters, sockets and capacitors -- the stuff of illegal radio stations...

    Good grief.
    To think, we're rapidly approaching the point where possession of a resistor makes you { potential radio pirate | cracker | terrorist | public enemy number one} in the eyes of the media.
  • The thing is, compared to blogs, there isn't enough bandwidth for everyone _and_ imagine all that crap broadcasted. Ther commercial/noncommercial stations around are bad enough, why bother with even more stations? Those free stations all have their agenda what they want you to hear, I'm not sure this is what I want. So shut them down. Whoever wants to listen to them, use Internet streams, these are just fine.
  • by XNormal (8617)
    [...] romex connectors, resistors, microphone cords, meters, sockets and capacitors -- the stuff of illegal radio stations

    No, it's just the transmitter which is illegal (but the feds will take all of it, of course).
    • by thomasa (17495)
      Probably more complicated then that. Owning is legal, operating illegal, selling is ???
  • by tetromino (807969) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:46AM (#16182505)
    But let's extend it. Pirate IP addresses! I should poison the arp cache on the router and redirect fileserver requests to my own workstation. After all, I am not stealing anything -- I have a natural right to use 172.16.20.104! And if some other users can't get their work done, well, tough luck. Haha, look at these silly network admins trying to track down the problem! They'll are overhelmed and unable to respond! Ooh, now how about pirate license plates. I like my professor's. It has a good ring to it. Yeah, he might be inconvenienced when I get caught by that red light camera -- but I am not stealing anything! And next day, I will just paint a new set of numbers on the plate! No way will they cops ever catch me! Hm, what else. Oh, let's try pirate usernames. Let's hack the forum and get a username I like. Yeah, someone else might be using it already. But who cares, it's not like I am stealing anything... And if the admin blocks me, I'll just go through to the backdoor I installed and get myself another username! They will never shut me down!
    • I should poison the arp cache on the router and redirect fileserver requests to my own workstation. After all, I am not stealing anything -- I have a natural right to use 172.16.20.104!

      Oh no you don't. Unless...
      Keith is that you?

      WHOIS Record For
      72.16.20.104
      Record Type: IP Address

      OrgName: Valor Telecommunications Enterprises, LLC
      City: Irving
      StateProv: TX
      PostalCode: 75062
      Country: US

      OrgTechHandle: KCA49-ARIN
      OrgTechName: Caldwell, Keith

    • It is doubtful that any amateur will have enough power to drown out a licenced station. The teeny-weeny transmitter (compared to the commercial stations) we have for our community station still cost us over $30k (granted, it gets us a couple of hundred clicks on most days). Even a big amateur transmitter would struggle to do more than a few city blocks unless they tried filling in space between extsiting broadcasters. The IP address analogy is a lousy one.

      i) any transmitter big enough to go toe-to-toe with
  • by GomezAdams (679726) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:47AM (#16182509)
    As a former broadcaster and a licensed amateur radio operator I know there is a legal route these 'Freedom Fighters' could take if they weren't so busy making martyrs of themselves. There is a community broadcast for education license that can be had for next to nothing if not for free. It is for the FM broadcast band and is for limited power but that power with a decent antenna can cover a square mile or so. Equipment is cheap and you could put up a group for coverage.

    The airwaves are a community resource. The FCC was created to control and parcel out the use of the radio spectrum for the best use by the community. Having said that, I know that big money is now involved in braodcast and frequency allocation - amateurs are having to fight off big money interests all the time. However the possibility to cause harm with poorly made and engineered equipment is more likely to create anger than sympathy.

    If these people want a voice, take it to the internet. Streaming audio and video using the same studio equipment is possible and if the message has validity the word will spread. The technology is mature and anyone with broadband can do it. It's not as dramatic as getting arrrested and fined and your 'cause' getting press time I guess.

    • by vtcodger (957785)
      ***As a former broadcaster and a licensed amateur radio operator I know there is a legal route these 'Freedom Fighters' could take if they weren't so busy making martyrs of themselves***

      Absolutely. An excellent point. But are you sure that the frequencies are there? There are certainly parts of the country where the FM band is nearly empty, but in areas like the Northeast, even the educational sub-band -- only 20 channels, no? already has a station on every channel. I'm located on the edge of the wild

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AK Marc (707885)
      As a former broadcaster and a licensed amateur radio operator I know there is a legal route these 'Freedom Fighters' could take if they weren't so busy making martyrs of themselves. There is a community broadcast for education license that can be had for next to nothing if not for free. It is for the FM broadcast band and is for limited power but that power with a decent antenna can cover a square mile or so. Equipment is cheap and you could put up a group for coverage.

      I'm Anchorage, Alaska. It's the 100
  • by dtmos (447842) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:58AM (#16182571)
    It's always been our position that if enough people go on the air with their stations, the FCC will be overwhelmed and unable to respond.
    ...and what will this nice gentleman do when a second pirate interferes with his pirate station, due to ideological differences or just to get more advertising revenue? Buy a bigger transmitter? The FCC was created in 1934 specifically to bring sanity to this wild-west, most-powerful-transmitter-wins warfare.
    • Unfortunately.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by N8F8 (4562)
      It was eventually coopted and became the monolithic voice of corporate america instead of a medium of expressing thoughts, opinions and art. That applies to both FM Radio and the government itself.
  • Monopoly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turbofisk (602472) on Monday September 25, 2006 @06:02AM (#16182849)
    During the sixties it brought down the state monopoly that only had old chums debating on the airwaves. It brought music to the airwaves. Not so bad for arr pirate!
  • The FCC? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Monday September 25, 2006 @06:26AM (#16182939)
    Our poor overworked FCC? Don't they already have enough work keeping us save from boobies and badbadbad words on TV? Now they also gotta take up the fight over frequencies?

    Hey... wait... actually, THAT would be their job, not content censoring...
  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Monday September 25, 2006 @11:02AM (#16185447) Homepage
    Not sure if they're still operating, but we have a pirate radio station operating in the Quad-Cities Area on the Mississippi.

    Basically their position is that federal regulations state they are able to operate a radio station without license during wartime.

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