“This is revolution radio.”
In a safehouse in Yangon last Thursday morning, a small group of 20-somethings gathered to assemble a portable radio transmitter. For several hours, they broadcast translations of international news into Burmese—tributes to protesters killed by the armed forces, revolutionary songs and poems, and interviews with the leaders of Myanmar’s civil disobedience movement that has sprung up to oppose the military junta that seized power in February.
Then, they dismantled the equipment, each person taking a different piece by a different route to another safe location where they store it. Security is tight. They never broadcast from the same place twice, and the group use aliases, even among themselves. This is Federal FM Radio, live on 90.2 MHz.
Its name betrays its politics. Support for a federal Myanmar, one which rejects the state’s majoritarian Bamar identity and strives for true ethnic unity, has surged in the months since the coup. It is a message that does not sit well with the military government, which has responded with violent repression and internet blackouts. But young dissidents like these refuse to be silenced and have turned to old technologies to spread the word.
“This radio was born out of Myanmar’s Spring Revolution,” said one of its founders, who goes by “Mulan.” “This is revolution radio.”
The junta has imposed nightly internet blackouts to disrupt the protest movement, preventing people from organizing and communicating with the outside world. Social media platforms have been blocked, although many people continued to access them through virtual private networks.
However, on April 2, the mobile internet in Myanmar was completely switched off. Fixed-line connections are rare, and the move left millions of people unable to access news or to communicate with one another. In the vacuum, State media has broadcast propaganda that underplays the scale of the crisis, portrays protesters as “terrorists” and foreign agents, and blames the civil disobedience movement for recent violence on the streets.
“Our people need to get information, real information, because the military spread out fake news on their own media,” Mulan said. She and her colleagues were able to source radio equipment from a friend of the movement — they won’t say precisely who, for obvious reasons. The team is entirely made up of young, digital natives, and most of them were working for civil society organizations before the coup. None of them knew how to operate the gear, but they found technicians willing to train them. “So now, we are learning, like, a radio crash course,” Mulan said.[…]
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Benn Kobb, who shares the following press release from the FCC:
Will Wiquist, (202) 418-0509
For Immediate Release
FCC ENFORCEMENT BUREAU WARNS PROPERTY OWNERS AND
MANAGERS OF SIGNIFICANT NEW FINANCIAL PENALTIES FOR
ALLOWING ILLEGAL BROADCASTING ON THEIR PROPERTY
Notice Could Precede Fines of Up to $2 Million Under the PIRATE Act
WASHINGTON, December 17, 2020—The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau today announced it
has begun targeting property owners and managers that knowingly tolerate pirate broadcasting
on their properties, exercising the Commission’s new authority under the recently enacted
PIRATE Act. Parties that knowingly facilitate illegal broadcasting on their property are liable
for fines of up to $2 million.
“Pirate radio is illegal and can interfere with not only legitimate broadcast stations’ business
activities but also those stations’ ability to inform the public about emergency information,”
said Rosemary Harold, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. “It is unacceptable – and plainly
illegal under the new law – for landlords and property managers to simply opt to ignore pirate
radio operations. Once they are aware of these unauthorized broadcasts, they must take steps
to stop it from continuing in their buildings or at other sites they own or control. If they do not
do so, they risk receiving a heavy fine, followed by collection action in court if they do not pay
it. In addition, our enforcement actions will be made public, which may create further
unforeseen business risks.”
Under the new authority, the Enforcement Bureau will provide written notice to property
owners and managers the agency has reason to believe are turning a blind eye to – or even
helping facilitate – illegal broadcasting. These new Notices of Illegal Pirate Radio
Broadcasting also will afford parties a period of time to remedy the problem before any
enforcement action moves forward. In the first such notices, issued today to property owners
regarding their buildings in New York City, the respective parties were given 10 days to
respond. The Bureau will consider any response before taking further action.
Commission investigations have found that landlords and property managers too often are
aware of this illegal activity taking place on their premises. The Commission has previously
sent warnings to landlords and even sought cooperation from national property owners’
organizations in raising awareness. With pirate broadcasts persisting despite these efforts,
Congress took action and empowered the Commission to penalize property owners and
managers that knowingly permit pirate broadcasters to remain operating from the landlord’s
buildings or unbuilt areas. Landlords and property managers also may be found liable if a
pirate station ceases operation for some period of time but later resumes at the same site.
Separately, the Enforcement Bureau and the Office of the Managing Director also released
today an Order amending the Commission’s rules to implement the new enforcement authority
granted by Congress through section 2 of the PIRATE Act, as codified in 47 U.S.C. § 511.
Notices of Illegal Pirate Radio Broadcasting are available at:
The PIRATE Act is available at: https://www.congress.gov/116/plaws/publ109/PLAW116publ109.pdf.
Media Relations: (202) 418-0500 / ASL: (844) 432-2275 / Twitter: @FCC / www.fcc.gov
This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC, 515 F.2d 385 (D.C. Cir. 1974).
(Source: Inside Radio)
Broadcasters would likely call it money well-spent, but it’s still cash coming from the federal government’s hands. The Federal Communications Commission estimates it will cost the agency at least $11 million to enforce the newly-adopted law that requires it to step up pirate radio enforcement. “Specifically, in order to combat the problem of illegal radio operations, the statute requires a sweeping process that will require new equipment and a substantial number of additional field agents to implement fully,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee during a hearing on Tuesday. Pai said he hoped congressional budget writers would determine a “reasonable funding level” for the FCC that reflects that added cost, suggesting the agency’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year should be raised to $354 million.
Signed into law by President Trump last month, the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act, or “PIRATE” Act (S.1228) was unanimously approved by both the Senate and House. The new law raises fines on unlicensed station operators to $100,000 per day per violation, up to a maximum of $2 million. In addition to tougher fines on violators, the FCC would also be required to conduct sweeps in the five cities where pirate radio is the biggest problem—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas—at least once a year. And then, within six months, field agents would be mandated to return to those markets to conduct “monitoring sweeps” to determine whether the unlicensed operators simply powered back up or changed frequencies. The agency would also be required to issue a report to Congress on an annual basis about its pirate-fighting efforts.
Pai told the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee that the FCC is already gearing up for implementing the new law. “We are submitting a formal amendment to the Office of Management and Budget concerning costs associated with the full implementation of the PIRATE Act,” said Pai.[…]
(Source: The White House)
On Friday, January 24, 2020, the President signed into law:
H.R. 583, the “Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act” or the “PIRATE Act,” which authorizes enhanced penalties for pirate radio broadcasters and requires the Federal Communications Commission to increase enforcement activities; and
H.R. 2476, the “Securing American Nonprofit Organizations Against Terrorism Act of 2019,” which authorizes within the Department of Homeland Security a Nonprofit Security Grant Program to make grants to eligible nonprofit organizations for target hardening and other security enhancements to protect against terrorist attacks.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who shares this article from The Verge:
When she was growing up in East Flatbush among the Haitian diaspora, former pirate broadcaster Joan Martinez — no relation to the New York radio legend Angie Martinez, despite what Joan claimed to her friends as a youth — said that the sounds of pirate radio were the backdrop to her childhood. “Starting Friday night, all throughout the weekend, you would just hear all these like crazy DJs just talking and all this music,” Martinez says. Her parents’ apartment was the meeting spot for her whole family, a place where they’d reminisce about being in Haiti. They needed a place that felt like home. Martinez says that, as a kid, she never understood why the stations they listened to only broadcast on the weekends. As she got older, there were fewer of them — and then in 2010, she says, they started to come back online.
Martinez got into the scene as a broadcaster after her mother turned down an offer to be a DJ at a pirate station. “She was like, ‘No, I don’t want to. However, I do have a daughter that did study broadcasting in college,’” — Joan — “and then all of a sudden they were like, ‘We want her. Like, can we bring her in here?’” Martinez went. It was 2010. Her first job was as an anchor, where she talked through the news from the Caribbean and New York City. Then she filled in for a couple of high school girls who had their own show — and eventually took the spot over completely. It was a talk show she did with her friends for a year and a half, until Martinez decided to go back to school. (“It was a pretty live show. Sometimes things get a little raunchy, sometimes things get a little too crazy and it’s like, I don’t want to piss off my supervisor,” she says. Pirates have org charts and standards, too.)
After school, she went back, but not for very long; academia pulled her back in, and today, she’s in grad school, currently at work on her thesis. “I was doing pirate for a good five years and then when I got into grad school, since the coursework was becoming very time consuming, I had to kind of let that go,” Martinez says, adding that she’s mostly involved these days in an administrative, consulting way. “However, you know, I still keep my fingers in their pot.”[…]
The Flat Bush area of Brooklyn, NY, is the cultural center of the FM Pirate Radio Scene. Check out David Goren’s Brookly Pirate Radio Soundmap to dive in deeper!
(Source: Radio Today Ireland via Mike Terry)
Pirate radio stations are appearing on unlicenced DAB digital multiplexes in Dublin and Cork, and more are planned for other cities in Ireland.
The “FreeDAB” platform, now carrying around ten stations, was born out of frustration over the procedures in place to broadcast legally on DAB in Ireland.
During the recent 12-month legal DAB multiplex trial operated by ‘éirdab’ in Cork, a radio station wanting to broadcast via this method would need to pay upfront for a five-year Section 71 licence (a list price of €14,000 (plus VAT)) and wait up to five months for the application to be processed.
But waiting five months for a licence and paying five years up-front to be on a 12-month trial are just two of the issues holding back DAB in Ireland.
The technology required to broadcast a multiplex is now easier to acquire and is mostly controlled by software whilst costs to broadcast illegally via the multiplexes also appear to be very low.[…]
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ron, who shares the following news via the ARRL:
After filing a civil action and seeking an injunction to stop a church-related pirate radio station from operating in Worcester, Massachusetts, the US Attorney’s Office this week reached a settlement with the station’s operators, Vasco Oburoni and Christian Praise International Church. US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold announced the settlement on June 10. […]According to a consent decree filed on June 10 and subject to court approval, Oburoni and Christian Praise International Church agree not to do so in the future. They also agreed to surrender all of their broadcasting equipment.
“In the event the FCC reasonably suspects that they have violated the Act, the FCC may inspect the premises and seize any broadcasting equipment,” an FCC news release said. If the FCC determines that “the defendants” have operated an unlicensed broadcasting station in violation of the settlement, they will be subject to a $75,000 fine. The FCC received complaints, including one from a licensed broadcaster, that the pirate station was causing interference.
According to the signed consent decree, Vasco Oburoni and Christian Praise International Church admitted that they operated a radio broadcast station in Worcester, on 97.1 MHz, without an FCC license and previously had operated an unlicensed radio station on 102.3 MHz. The FCC had issued multiple warnings and issued a Forfeiture Order in the amount of $15,000 against Oburoni. The FCC said Oburoni agreed to a payment plan but later began broadcasting again without a license on a different frequency.