Pirates Going Down to a Watery Grave

Even as I have narrowed down the English-speaking world’s tens of thousands of radio stations into only approximately 175 good ones on my Radio page, it is difficult for me to always keep up on any changes that have occurred until I happen to go back and listen to that station.  This is especially true since most of the stations I list are independent and, thus, not usually considered by the mainstream media that covers radio (what little there is remaining of it) to be newsworthy.  Because of that, this news might be old to some.  However, it still bears reporting because it will be news to those that only follow this type of stuff though KoHoSo.us.  In addition, both are good examples of how the government of the United States is acting in the name of its citizens while, instead, doing nothing but protecting corporate interests.

To put it plainly, I have had to delete the pirate/variety stations Free Radio Olympia and Free Radio Santa Cruz from my Radio page.

Free Radio Olympia preemptively shut down in June to avoid an upcoming raid by the Federal Communications Commission.  Sadly, they have not been able to keep up their web presence so not even an online stream is available as was promised when they shut down their transmitter.  With no trace of them at this time and no “tweets” from their Twitter account since 2010, I doubt this station will return anytime soon (if at all) since the FCC had really been turning up the heat on pirate stations in the Pacific Northwest (why they have focused on that particular region is still a mystery).

Free Radio Olympia was not the greatest station there ever was.  However, they stood for something that most people don’t want to bother fighting for anymore — that the airwaves belong to the people (as originally ordained by the U.S. Congress), that said airwaves should be a forum for full freedom of expression, and those that do not care for the programming have the freedom to turn the dial to another station.  In my view, stranger still on the FCC going after Free Radio Olympia as opposed to any other pirate station is that they were not interfering with the signal of any other station in any significant way nor were they by any means the only pirate outlet broadcasting content that would earn a licensed broadcaster a huge fine (mainly, any song containing one of George Carlin‘s “Seven dirty words“).

At least Olympia still has the great KAOS (a college station I have recommended on various websites I have had going back to 1998) plus the struggling but full of potential KOWA.  It would be my hope that those behind Radio Free Olympia along with all of the volunteer hosts would put their energies behind the legally-licensed KOWA and bite the bullet for a while on being able to say, “Fuck,” over the air.  KOWA could really be something if it got more support in an area that is surely open to non-commercial radio and probably tiring like many others of the deteriorating quality of NPR programming being shoved down the throats of the area over the transmitters controlled by the University of Washington (a long story that I might cover in some other post especially if “U-Dub” does something else with its radio stations that pisses me off again).

As for the other station, Free Radio Santa Cruz (FRSC) is still alive and kicking over the air.  However, they state on their website that SoundExchange, the organization that collects song royalties from radio stations, has forced FRSC to remove its live stream because they refuse to pay.  This seems rather strange to me but, then again, Santa Cruz is definitely a capital city of strange.  After all, FRSC is a pirate station so why would they bother listening to what SoundExchange had to say…assuming SoundExchange actually contacted them at all?  After all, the big violation here is that FRSC is broadcasting without a license, has been doing so since 1995, and was shut down once already in 2004 by federal marshals with assault rifles drawn (after which FRSC was back on the air within a month, thus showing how effective that expenditure of tax money was).  In addition, there are plenty of other pirate stations the USA streaming away while playing artists signed to big record labels with not one peep about SoundExchange giving them any grief.

Whatever is going on with FRSC and whether or not the threat from SoundExchange is real or just a ruse to gain attention for some reason, the fact is that it no longer streams on the Internet.  Therefore, it has to be removed from my Radio page.

While the SoundExchange threat may or may not be real in the case of FRSC, it is real when it comes to many other small-time outlets whether they are traditional over-the-air radio stations or Internet broadcasters.  The royalty fees have become so high even for non-commercial broadcasters and the enforcement so heavy-handed that it is forcing many off of the playing field.  That only serves to decrease competition and put more power into the hands of Clear Channel, Cumulus, CBS, Entercom, Saga, and all the rest of the radio conglomerates.  Worse yet, the recording industry still hasn’t changed it’s actual business model — ripping off artists for every dime they can out of their royalties.  Any artists that came out in favor of the current SoundExchange system — including beloved Bob Weir and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead — need to take another strong look at how this is working and admit that they got suckered and sure as hell hasn’t helped the new up-and-coming artists they claimed it would.

In case anybody is wondering…yes, there is one pirate station still left on my Radio page.  Radio Free Canton out of Ohio is still going strong after 12 years on the air illegally.  I hope it stays on the air for many more years to come if only to keep sticking it to The Man who has stolen most of our radio stations right in front of our faces while hardly anybody has said one peep about it.

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