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Radio Activists

Jan. 19, 1999


Radio Activists

The recent dust-up at Free Radio Santa Cruz over the pirate collective's dismissal of the foul-mouthed DJ known as Merlin has overshadowed more pressing business matters.

The Federal Communications Commission has scheduled a vote for Jan. 20 on several proposals that would allow the licensing of low-power FM signals, such as the burning 40 watts put out by 96.3 FM. But the National Association of Broadcasters has been fighting the rule changes for years, and it has a lot of powerful friends.

One proposal allows the licensing of stations of up to 100 watts, but excludes stations like Free Radio Santa Cruz from applying for their own signals.

"We've proven this can work; we've risked our asses to bring the issue to their attention," says collective member V-Man. "But we're considered 'pirates' because we've never complied with the FCC." As a friendly reminder of this, an FCC goon showed up at the station's secret location Jan. 14 and served it with a "Notice of Unlicensed Radio Operation."

V-Man acknowledges that there are no easy solutions for how to parcel out signals. One would involve a bidding procedure, but that could price out the very people--low-budget broadcasters--for whom the low-power rules are being designed. V-Man admits that no one has any good ideas for a fair allocation system.

Radio Free Santa Cruz is pressing ahead with plans for a fundraiser Mar. 3 at the Vets Hall to mark the station's fifth anniversary. Meanwhile, the audio and video tapes--now making the rounds--of the Jan. 4 show that got Merlin booted are not flattering to the dumped DJ. Station members, making a distinction between free speech and intelligent speech, canned Merlin after a rant-fest that made even jaded Nüzzites blush.

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