Captains Outrageous

The FCC attempts to fend off Dade's motley crew of FM radio pirates

Ross insists he made every effort to comply with government regulations. "I was not running an illegal station, to my knowledge," he says. "I made dozens of calls to the FCC to get clearance, but I never got a word on it. They kept telling me that if I wasn't over 100 watts, they couldn't license me. So I decided to play it safe and stay under 100 watts. That was a misunderstanding."

Somebody turned him in to the radio feds. Ross doesn't know who, and the FCC won't say. "It surprised me. A car showed up, two guys in suits knocked on my door at ten in the morning and showed me a federal badge. They said they'd like to inspect my transmitter, and I said, `Sure, come on in.'"

The Ross link-up was muzzled on February 3. "I'm not mad at the FCC," says the DJ, "but I wish they were more flexible. They have hard-and-fast rules with no provisions to make an exception. With our transmitter, we took great care not to cause harmonics that would mess up anyone else's signal. When it was examined, they admitted it was exceptionally clean."

The FCC never did quite catch up with the pirates behind Radio X (88.3 FM), one of the more ambitious outlets operating outside the law. "We rented a house, built a studio, and provided alternative programming that otherwise wouldn't be available," says Steve Alvin, who hosted a jazz show on the X. "We had no hidden agendas, we were broadcasting in peace and harmony, playing and saying what we wish. During the war in Iraq, we were talking out. Yahweh, Mandela, we spoke out and played alternative music."

Radio X originated in a rented house and was transmitted to an antenna located on the University of Miami campus. "All they found was the remote location," Alvin says. "They never could find us." Like Jeff Brown, he argues that the FCC is enforcing the the law on behalf of commercial interests. "Government works for the elite," says Alvin, "not for the people who are trying to do something."

The FCC's assurances notwithstanding, Alvin believes the government is orchestrating a concerted crackdown, spurred by commercial broadcasters who sniff out the outlaw operations. "These people," Alvin says, "are handing them to the FCC on a silver platter and laughing about it. I can assure you our station was cleaner than any commercial station."

There are no plans at this time to resurrect Radio X.
Pierre Leach, however, would like to bring Fun Radio back to Mango Hill. He has applied for a permit that would allow him to operate legally. And, he adds, he would like to clear up all his problems with the FCC. When he was confronted with a $1000 "monetary forfeiture," Leach sent a letter to the FCC explaining his position. That was back on November 1, 1991. He hasn't heard a thing since.

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