Giving Voice to the Voiceless

Micropower Broadcasting

By Stephen Dunifer, Free Radio Berkeley

As night rolls across San Franciso Bay and rushes westward, micropower FM transmitters spring to life at the flick of a switch bringing new voices to the FM broadcast band. Voices that defy and challenge the FCC's control of the airwaves. Radio Libre (103.3) operating from the Mission District offers a diverse and multicultural programming mix in both Spanish and English. In the western portions of the city San Francisco Liberation Radio (93.7 FM) provides the only unlicensed call-in talk show broadcast along with excellent documetaries on local and national issues. Comic relief is provided by the Jolly Roger Radio Comedy Troupe who satirize everything from the Olympics to local politicians. SFLR also produces the monthly Food Not Bombs Radio Network program heard on a number of stations across the United States and Canada. New voices will be soon taking to the air in the SOMA (south of Market St.) district and the urban district known as Hunter's Point (107.3 FM) in eastern San Francisco. A new voice (88.1 FM) has made its apperance in North Beach as well.

To the north across the Golden Gate Bridge alternative voices are heard in Sausalito, San Rafael and other areas of Marin County. Meanwhile, covering the East Bay cities of Berkeley, Oakland El Cerrito, Albany and Alameda, Free Radio Berkeley (104.1 FM) is continuing its broadcasts, now 24 hours a day! Further to the south in areas populated by migrants and farm workers voices of the mexicano, la Raza and Zapatista are taking to the air as well. Much further to the South across the Rio Grande, transmitters built by Free Radio Berkeley are on the air in the barrios of Mexico City and the state of Chiapas. Indeed, a revolution is underway here and other parts of the country and world as well. Seeking to break the corporate media stranglehold on the free flow of information, news, ideas, cultural and artistic expression, these low cost and relatively low power (1 to 30 watts) FM broadcast stations are establishing themselves as voices of the voiceless. Futher, most are urging everyone to fight back against a racist and corrupt system by not only providing the poetry, music and spoken word of inspiration but the vital information required for an empowered struggle. Where else can one hear the voices and art of street poets, gang members, homeless persons, activists, punkers, immigrants and many more ? Truly, micropower broadcasting is technology for the people.

Inspired by Mabana Kantako of Black Liberation Radio, Free Radio Berkeley was pivotal in the current micropower broadcasting movement by its open defiance of the FCC and ongoing legal challenge to its regulatory authority aided by the National Lawyers Guild Committee on Democratic Communications. Free Radio Berkeley offers a complete line of kits which enable anyone with some degree of technical skill to assemble their own tramsitters. A complete station can be put on the air for less than $1000 compared to the $50,000 to $100,000 under FCC guidelines. Workshops and training are offered along with a growing list of technical mentors to aid in the creation of micropower broadcasting stations. If you have electronic skills you can make a very valuable and vital contribution to this movement by teaching and training others.

Of course, this is not happening without reprisals from the Federal Government. Stephen Dunifer of Free Radio Berkeley has not only been threatened with a $20,000 fine by the FCC but is the target of a preliminary injunction sought by the FCC to silence his broadcasts as part of Free Radio Berkeley. A historical precedent was set in Federal District Court on January 20 when Federal judge Claudia Wilken refused to grant the FCC's injunction request. It was the first time a Federal judge has refused such a request from the FCC. Other individuals such as Richard Edmondson of SF Liberation Radio and Bill Dougan of Phoenix, Arizona have been threatened with fines of $10,000 and $17,500 respectively but are not facing the possiblity of court imposed sanctions at this time.

Micropower broadcasting is more than the leaflet of the 90's it is a tool by which to organize and bring about fundamental social change. For far too long the corporations have been allowed to steal and fence off the natural resources of this planet, including the airwaves. It is time to tear down the fences, grind the no trespassing signs into the ground and take back what belongs to everyone on this planet. We need to use these resources for the good of all instead of the self- agrandizement of the few. If you want to make micropower broadcasting a reality and a revolutionary force in your community, contact Free Radio Berkeley at the following address and phone numbers.

Free Radio Berkeley, 1442A Walnut St. #406, Berkeley, CA 94709

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