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Another interesting post from Usenet...
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Joined: 18 Jan 2002
Posts: 3096
Location: Radio Land

Post Another interesting post from Usenet... Reply with quote
This was recently posted in alt.radio.pirate.

I am merely doing a copy/paste here.

Here it goes:

Start quote:

We've been running a pirate station in the west for over 4 years at
150 watts. We've had 4 visits from the FCC (so far). We've learned a
lot over the years, but the most important is:

The FCC has no real power to stop you IF you do it right.

It's true. Technically, you aren't breaking any laws. You're
breaking FCC regulations. As a result, they have no legal right to
enforce anything. They act like they do, but they don't. If they get
a warrant, it's from a federal judge, they can't issue one. If they
get a judgment, it's from a different federal agency (they work with
several) they've convinced to help them, they can't do it themselves.
If they come to get your gear, the federal marshals do it, they come
along for the ride, they can't seize equipment or arrest anyone

They CAN investigate and start the process, but, by themselves, they
are essentially powerless. They are only able to get help from these
other agencies to name you personally if you are blatant, stubborn and
not overly clever.

That means they do whatever they can (including lie) to get compliance
(i.e. transmitter: OFF).

Some rules here: Never use real names, ever. I'll say it again:
NEVER use real names. Never allow drugs, guns or anything they can
use as a 'reason' to get into your station (at times, they will ask a
local police officer to come with them during initial visits.. mostly
to intimidate you. Without a warrant, and without cause.. see above..
there's not much they can do, you're not actually breaking the law-
except in Florida. If you're in florida, don't bother doing pirate
radio- it's a felony there now. That's a LONG story for another
time). Last: Never allow anyone under 18 (for obvious reasons) into
the station.

The bottom line for the FCC: They are interested in compliance, not
prosecution. They will SAY they CAN prosecute you, but it's the last
thing they want to hassle with. All they want is for that transmitter
to be turned off.

If you're broadcasting and they visit (first time) and you turn it
off, that's pretty much it. Don't do it from your house, for
instance. That gives them a (your) name. Best thing is to find a
friendly landlord who'll rent you a very cheap space somewhere and do
it from there.

The BIG thing is never, ever, let them get your real name. No real
name, no way to levy a fine. Did I say this Already? Can't say it
enough. No real names.

The only time you'll see federal marshals with guns is after you've
been broadcasting for some time (usually years) and have been warned
multiple times to shut down and you keep doing it (usually from the
same location).

When (not if) you get visited, here's the likely scenario: They'll
snoop (read: trespass) the area out, walk around the property, take
some pictures, take some measurements of signal strength and then
knock on the door. They'll say 'there's an FM radio station here,
we'd like to inspect it and see your license, we have that right'.
They do not. They only have that (legal) right if you have a license.
You don't, so they're 'power' is no longer in force. I know, it's
backward, but it's true. We've got 3 lawyers who work for us on this.

Tell them you don't know what they're talking about. They'll then
threaten you with $11,000 a day fines and up to a year in jail (both
true, but the jail is extremely unlikely to get close to happening)
and that they would like to come in.

Tell them to go away unless they have a warrant (they won't, it's the
first visit where they 'find' you). Shut the door. DO NOT give them
your name. Give them nothing. Don't talk with them at all. They
will leave a letter of compliance demanding that you show your license
within 10 days or stop operating. If you turn it off, that's it.
You're done. You'll get a registered letter notice (don't pick it up)
and a regular mail notice of the same letter they tack on your door.

You'll be freaked out and scared. We where the first time. Don't be.
It's routine to get busted. It's part of doing business as a pirate

The trick: Move each time. And, again, remain anonymous at all costs.
Our group here (about 2 dozen DJ's) all have 'on air' names. They
all know me by my on air name, Only 1 or 2 (who I've known for years)
know my first name. None know my last name.

Talk with the press, make them your friends, get stories printed with
a spin in your favor, but DO NOT let them take your picture. Ever.
The feds will use that (over time) to build a case and a link to you

Next, move to a new location. New location: new warning letter.
Restarts the legal process from scratch.

Interestingly, even if you did stay in the same place after several
warnings, the worst thing thats likely to happen nowadays is your
equipment is seized. They rarely go after specific pirates if the
names are hard to nail down (even if they're pretty sure who you are).

Free Radio Santa Cruz (FRSC) was busted last week (after 9 years on
the air) and the warrant was USA vs. 'Transmission equipment at
address X". This is based on old maritime laws used to seize pirate
radio ships where the captains names weren't known (appropriate eh?).
All they wanted was the equipment. They knew the names of the main
pirates, but, interestingly, they weren't named in the actual warrant.

So, again, we're back to their goal of compliance more than anything
else. They just want it turned off.

Going after a pirate in court is a long drawn out process. If you
have pro bono (free) legal support, it's almost not worth it for them.
Line up a free speech supporting lawyer (or two, or three) who are
willing to support you. If, by some fluke, you get named and they go
after you personally, they'll know that your pro bono team will
protect you and that they aren't bleeding you dry (although THEY'RE
spending very limited resources).

Here's how we work after years of experience and several busts:

We're mobile. Sort of. We have a van we operate out of. We also
have several Antenna sites with antenna's in tree's, on roofs, etc.
We pull the van up to the site, plug in the antenna, and power
(usually from a friendly listener who's supplied the site) and we
broadcast. Often, we leave it for days or weeks. Sometimes longer.
We do it from the van, AND we do it from remote locations 'streaming'
our signal over the internet to a computer and mixer in the van. We
use friendly listeners WIFI internet hotspots to do this.

The van is locked and, when parked, the plates taken off. And the VIN
is taped over. They can't very well break into a locked van without a
warrant. And if they visit, we just drive the van off to another
spot, forcing the reset of the legal process all over again. (i.e.
you have to get several warnings before they can justify getting a
warrant from a federal judge).

The van works as a sort of STL (Studio Transmitter Link) that, using
the internet, allows us to broadcast from just about anywhere that
there's an internet connection. Just set up a laptop, small mixer,
mics and you're live. You can do this in a bar with a band, at a
speech, a garage, a friends living room. All you're doing is internet

The folks that let us park the van at their houses and businesses are
told it's a 'ham radio rebroadcaster'. They tell this to the FCC.
They unplug the van (turning off the transmitter making the FCC
happy.. they now have compliance).

Since they have no key to the van, not much they can do but unplug it.
They have an email address in an aliased name and our phone (a
prepaid cellular line). They call us telling us the FCC is/was there
(and if the FCC wants it, they give it to them, which is fine with
us). They get the warning letter, but, since we move the van that
night or the next day, it doesn't matter. They're now out of the

Everyone (but the FCC) is happy.

And then we do it all over again.

Some tips:

Use pro equipment. DO NOT use hand built transmitters unless you
REALLY know what you're doing. Dirty signals are the quickest way to
get nailed. We use LPFM gear from England (About $2500 for a 150w
transmitter). One of our DJ's is an EE an RF engineer. We tune our
antenna's very carefully. We are VERY good 'neighbors' on the dial
and have the cleanest signal in our area (we know this because our
engineer has the equipment to check it). Be a good (technical)
citizen on the air.

If you're in a city with an FCC office, you'll have a hard time. If
they can listen to you on the way to work, it's unlikely you'll be up
long. The farther away from an FCC office, the better.

If you live in Florida, I wouldn't recommend doing pirate radio at
all. A few months ago they made it a felony to do unlicensed radio
broadcasting (up to 5 years in jail). This due to a state senator
who's a pilot not being able to land his plane because a pirate with a
dirty hand built transmitter (see above comments about being a good
citizen) made it nearly impossible for him to talk to the tower.
Pissed him off and the bill was born and made it through that states
legal process into law. Sad but true. It's the only place you can't
exercise your right to the airwaves without the real threat of going
to prison. You gotta love Florida eh?

Ham's are (usually) not your friends. Some are, but most make a sport
out of locating your transmitter and telling the FCC about it. They
do T-hunts (transmitter hunting). Since they went to the trouble of
getting a license, by god, you should too. We've got some friendly
hams, but it's only about 10%. (for you pro-pirate hams out there:
forgive me, but you know this is, overall, true).

Previous posts on who turns you in are generally accurate, but it's
almost always another 'licensed' broadcaster like Clear Channel or
your local NPR station (NPR HATES pirate radio, and LPFM... they tried
their damnest to kill it, along with the National Association of
Broadcasters (NAB), LPFM and pirates are, after all, competition,
primarily, to NPR type stations-another weird but true thing in this
world). Clear Channel really does actively go after pirates (we know,
our first bust was initiated by the local clear channel station. We
found out because a reporter doing a story on this dug it up and had
the proof). Clear channel has also stated publicly they actively
report pirate stations. If you live in a town with a lot of Clear
Channel stations, you're likely to get reported more quickly.

To sum it up: it's difficult. And I haven't even gotten into the
dynamics of running a station wth several dozen highly independent
thinkers (which is what pirate radio attracts), but it's wonderful as
well. For us, it's worth the trouble. If you really want to do it,
and are willing to put up with the hassles around it, there's nothing
more rewarding.

Radio is the most personal of media. It's the only one that people
invite into their homes, offices, and cars. It's personal, intimate,
immediate, ubiquitous and egalitarian. There's nothing else like it
that can reach so many people. I encourage you to (all of you) to
start a station.

If 1000 groups start stations, the FCC will be overwhelmed and forced
to make LPFM changes that enable it to become a reality. I would LIKE
to have a license (I tried, but you can't get one). The only
alternative is to start a pirate station.

Good broadcasting, and good luck.

End quote:


Best regards,
Marko - PCS Electronics
Turn your PC into a FM radio station!
fax +386 4 2316 128
Sat Oct 16, 2004 2:39 pm View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
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