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Pirates of The Airwaves
Unlicensed Broadcasters: Civil Disobedience Or Law Breakers?
More of this Feature
Part 2: What does the FCC think?

Related Resources
Pirate Radio Links

Elsewhere on the Web
Radio Caroline
Workers Independent News Service
The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame

Not everyone is content with the listening options available on radio today. The Pirate Radio movement has been tetering on the brink of illegality for some time and its proponents seem to feel the risk is worth it. Your About.com Radio Guide recently conducted an email interview with John Anderson who has been reporting on and studying the microradio movement in the United States for the last five years, and maintains a website devoted to free radio and culture jamming at Diymedia.net. John has worked professionally as a radio journalist for commercial stations in Indiana and Wisconsin, and reported on stories for networks like ABC, CNN, and the BBC and is an anchor for the Workers Independent News Service. He is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Corey: When I think of Pirate Radio, I first think of the legendary Radio Caroline that operated offshore from Great Britain during the 1960s. But, today, the term "Pirate Radio" means so much more. Can you explain what Pirate Radio is?

John: "Pirate Radio," IMHO, basically means unlicensed broadcasting. As you mention, it can take many forms (AM/FM/SW), fills various needs in various countries, and is done for a myriad of reasons. Mostly, though, it's to provide programming that isn't available on licensed outlets - to fill a need in the community (or marketplace, in some cases). Some see the act of broadcasting without a license as a matter of electronic civil disobedience, but you'll find that sentiment most strongly in the USA, where low power FM radio (aka "microradio") is by far the most popular outlet.

Corey: Why should I become a Pirate Radio operator? Is my motovation philosophical or recreational?

John: A little bit of both, I'd think. Actually taking the plunge and putting a signal on the air is probably a bit of a philosophical decision for anyone who does it (provided they're cognizant of the risks, which they should be), but I can't think of any "pirate" who doesn't have fun while they're doing it. On the philosophical side, I believe that taking to the airwaves is a tangible act of civil disobedience, kind of a protest against corporate control of our mass media and the distortions to information that come with the ever-larger profit motive. You know the state of the radio industry, and it certainly isn't pretty following deregulation and the onset of Clear Channel and their ilk. On top of the gesture of resistance (simply being on the air), you've got a great opportunity to do something creative, informative, and compelling on the radio, that isn't being done by those already there. Anybody who loves radio secretly would love to do that.

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