Dumb it down, mainstream it, keep it safe, and corral the masses for your advertisers. The mentality of commercial radio programmers explains why people walk around mumbling "radio sucks" and it's also one reason Big A and 30 cohorts have relaunched the pirate station Radio X, at 88.3 on your FM dial.
"Radio should be an art form," Big A (no real names, please) bellows. "Anybody can slap a tape or CD in and push a button like those hacks at LOVE-94 and ZETA and 'LRN. Those jerks wouldn't know Coltrane from Bird."
Big A's other reason for resurrecting Radio X (which previously made waves in 1991 before being shut down by the FCC in early '92) is the fate of Miami's community radio station, WDNA-FM (88.9). WDNA was created in 1980 as a nonprofit entity that would allow access to anyone who volunteered and for years it was a source of programming unlike anything else on the dial. At one point Big A, a long-time volunteer, was given WDNA's only paid position, as station manager. "I can't stand the fact that the community radio station we worked so hard to build and that had so much support and had a full range of cultural endeavors, from Pakistani to Iranian to Cuban to American, was taken away. Now the board of directors describe WDNA as a Latin-owned and -operated station," says Big A, referring to a two-year-old dispute, still making its way through the court system, between WDNA's current board of directors and a group of former station volunteers, himself included.
"When something isn't being done, well, somebody's gotta do it," he concludes. "There's no such thing as community radio in South Florida, so we're putting on community radio. And that means all alternative, free-form, underground. With no restrictions." And no license from the Federal Communications Commission.
Mr. K, the technical expert behind Radio X, and Big A, in charge of programming, went on the air October 18. Big A says he's poured thousands of dollars of his own money into the station, which has a phone number for interested listeners: 460-3389. He's even considering advertising the outlaw enterprise.
Radio X claims a strong signal and has reportedly been picked up as far north as Pembroke Pines and as far south as Cutler Ridge. Big A says Mr. K is using a custom-made solid copper antenna, resistant to lightning and conducive to high-quality broadcasts. He says the transmitter and other equipment are also state-of-the-art.
Should the FCC locate and bust the X, however, fines in the thousands of dollars could be levied, a possibility that doesn't seem to concern Big A much. "They can trace it to somebody who won't tell them anything," he spits. "I'm just a voice. They can shut us down, even though we're providing a service to the public. And our signal is cleaner than any commercial station's; there's no interference with other frequencies."
Big A does suspect that a local electronics whiz turned in the old Radio X to the FCC, and that the same person is currently attempting to jam X's signal from downtown north A sort of like what Castro does to TV Marti.
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If you are able to pick up the pirate broadcasts A which air from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 4:00 p.m. to midnight on Friday, and from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Saturday A you'll hear underground rock, hard-core jazz (Big A's metier), Island riddims, red-hot salsa, blues, folk. (One show is called Anything Goes, which pretty much sums it up.) The Midnight Rider A who was the area's leading advocate of Southern rock while a DJ at WDNA -- devoted his show this past Thursday night to the Allman Brothers. This Thursday at 6:00 p.m. he'll play a mix of local rock and national acts. "Back when I was at WDNA," the Rider says, "Southern rock was in decline. Now it's making a big comeback, new and old stuff, and WSHE and ZETA don't know what the hell's going on."
The Midnight Rider and the other hosts tape their programs. "That way only three people know where the station is located," Big A says. And where is that? "Parts unknown."
Radio X will broadcast for the next six months, A says, and then shut down for good. "We're going to show people what radio could be but never will be because this is Miami. We're not doing this for the general public. I'll be honest with you, the public doesn't deserve Radio X, because of their apathy and ignorance."
In truth, though, Big A and his colleagues are fighting a battle for the general public. For the individual. Against the establishment. "The FCC might get us," he admits. "But the powers that be will never win completely. Commercial radio and TV and the Miami Herald have their club and they have to represent things in a certain way. They win most of the time. But they'll never win completely, as long as there's one free man out there willing to do something about it.