The following article is indicative of where we are in social policy. As you read it transpose the terms to pre-war nazzi Germany and see if it translates.
Subject: Miami Herald: 100 unlicensed stations silenced in South Florida, the `pirate radio capital'
Published Sunday, July 23, 2000, in the Miami Herald
100 unlicensed stations silenced in South Florida, the `pirate radio capital'
Some disrupted aircraft communication, officials say
BY DAVID GREEN
A few weeks ago, agents closed in on a pirate radio station airing gangster rap from a Fort Lauderdale warehouse.
The warehouse turned out to be empty. The disc jockeys had tossed their portable transmitter into a van and were now spinning tunes as they cruised the streets.
``We'd see them,'' Broward sheriff's Lt. Ric Moss recalls. ``We would try to set up so we could move in, and they'd disappear.''
Such cat-and-mouse games are growing increasingly common as the federal government cracks down on unlicensed stations -- particularly in South Florida, which one federal agent called the ``pirate radio capital of the world.''
Indeed, the Federal Communications Commission has pulled the plug on more than 100 stations between Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties during the past two years. In recent weeks, its agents have pinched pirate equipment in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
The growing battle over rogue broadcasters has dragged in combatants from across the spectrum: police, the federal government, the powerful broadcasters lobby -- even airports, which claim that pirate transmissions disrupt conversations between planes and control towers.
In the eye of the storm is a ragtag collection of renegades. From ethnic broadcasters shut out of commercial radio to anarchists fighting for unregulated airwaves to opportunists running amateur ads for nightclubs and earning a mother lode of tax-free loot, they're united by a common attitude.
``The radio sucks,'' says Paul Griffin, director of the Association of Micropower Broadcasters, a Berkeley, Calif.-based clearinghouse for underground radio issues that publishes a newsletter for 300 subscribers.
``Most of the dial is filled up with preprogrammed commercial stations that don't address the needs or interests of the local listening public.''
It was the crowds that police noticed first.
As many as 600 people would suddenly gather at a public park or gas station in Broward County. Complaints would flood the Broward Sheriff's Office.
Deputies would arrive and find people drinking, smoking marijuana, fighting, peeling out, according to Lt. Moss. They'd break up the throng with tickets and arrests -- and the crowd would reassemble several miles away.
Officials couldn't figure out how they all knew they should go to a particular spot. Informants told them where to turn for an answer: 90.9 FM.
The unlicensed gangster rap station aired the latest uncensored hip-hop hits. It also broadcast the locations of spontaneous nighttime parties.
``We finally caught on,'' Moss recalled. ``We'd listen to the station, and they'd say, `OK, BSO's coming, we're going to try Troy's Lounge,' or `Everybody go to the Marathon station.' ''
Sheriff's officials began eavesdropping on the station's broadcasts. In addition to having their ears blistered by explicit lyrics, they heard the DJs -- young men with names like Haitian Boy and Marti -- announce sightings of police, or locations of possible police raids.
Sheriff's officials called the FCC. Together, the agencies used a sophisticated radarlike device that pinpointed the transmitter's location at a warehouse near Northwest Sixth Street and 22nd Road in Fort Lauderdale, the Broward Sheriff's Office said.
Before agents could raid the station, however, the pirates tossed their transmitter into a van and began broadcasting from the streets. A few weeks later, agents tracked the signal to a house in the 2200 block of Northwest 19th Street.
When police walked into the dilapidated shack on July 13, they found equipment -- a transmitter, CD players, headphones, microphones, a 30-foot antenna. The DJs were gone.
``We may have put them down temporarily,'' Moss said. ``But we anticipate them getting back into service.''
Several factors may have set the stage for the explosion of pirate broadcasters in South Florida -- and across the country, where by some estimates nearly 1,000 now jam the airwaves.
In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Reform Act. Among other things, the legislation loosened limits on the number of radio stations a single company could buy.
The result: a corporate feeding frenzy.
A handful of broadcast groups now own about 90 percent of U.S. radio stations, according to Griffin of the Association of Micropower Broadcasters. One pending merger will place more than 800 stations in the hands of a single company if it's approved.
The resulting corporate-designed formats often fail to speak the language -- literally -- of America's growing ethnic enclaves. There is an incentive for them to provide their own programming.
``Hispanics living in Detroit, Vietnamese in Arlington,'' says Mark Berlin, an attorney with the FCC's office of political programming in Washington. ``The only way they can get something [on the radio] is to just start [a station] up themselves.''
Another factor: technology. Advances have made it easier than ever to start a station. As little as $700 can buy a pirate radio starter kit over the Internet -- a five-watt transmitter, an amplifier, an antenna.
To stem the rising tide of pirates, the FCC launched a crackdown several years ago. The ongoing sweep has covered the country, the FCC said, taking down more than 500 stations since 1997.
Those caught face up to $100,000 in fines, a year in prison and the loss of their equipment.
In South Florida, harried federal agents have struck in three waves. The first two occurred in 1998 and took down 54 stations; the second, last year, closed 23 others.
Since then, the FCC said, 38 more stations have been hit.
And federal agents have stepped up their activities in recent weeks. Early in the month, agents seized a Miami man's equipment. The following week, they snatched equipment from two stations in Fort Lauderdale -- 90.9 FM and a Caribbean station.
Last Monday, they honed in on an industrial bay in West Palm Beach where they had detected unlicensed airing of Haitian music. They tacked a note to the door: Pull the plug or go to jail.
The station is now silent. And these days, so are most of South Florida's pirate stations.
``A lot of them have hunkered down,'' one FCC agent said. ``As of yesterday, we didn't hear a single one on the air.
``Word is getting out that we can pinpoint a signal right to your stovepipe.''
That's music to some ears.
Before the federal crackdown, more than 30 pirate stations cluttered the airwaves across South Florida, according to the FCC. They played rap, reggae, Haitian compas, Greek laika, Israeli folk.
And they often jammed the signals of licensed stations.
Rob Robbins, who spent six years raising money to start the
Miami-based Christian alternative rock and rap station The Call at 91.7 FM, says an Israeli pirate station in Broward hijacks his signal every night.
``I really don't have any sympathy with these guys,'' Robbins says. ``We took the hard route here, raising money for six years. Some of these guys can go out for $1,000 or less and instantly go on the air.''
Airports, too, say they're plagued by pirates. Unauthorized tunes sometimes bleed into communications between pilots and air traffic controllers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Indeed, pirate broadcasting from West Palm Beach's industrial bay was accidentally jamming air traffic signals at Palm Beach International Airport, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. Pilots found themselves suddenly listening to Haitian pop music as they tried to land, authorities said.
A few months earlier, both a gangster rap station and a Haitian pirate broadcaster were causing the same crisis at Miami International Airport, the FAA said. Both were shut down.
For those who oppose the pirates, this threat to public safety is justification for redoubling the attack.
``I don't know about you, but when I'm landing at the Miami airport, I'd rather not have communications interrupted between the pilot and air traffic controller,'' says Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, a Washington-based television and radio lobby.
But unlicensed broadcasters prefer to see themselves as Robin Hoods of radio. If they're muzzled, they argue, their communities will be robbed of their voices.
``I'm not doing bad things -- I'm not killing people on the air,'' insists 36-year-old native Israeli Shlomi Malka, who operates the pirate Hebrew-language station at 91.7 FM from a rented Fort Lauderdale house -- and interferes with the Miami Christian music station.
``If you are from Israel, and you are here in this country by yourself, and your mother and father are back in Israel, you miss them. When you hear my music, you think of them, and it brings you a good feeling.''
Copyright 2000 Miami Herald
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