Transmission Impossible

Feds to Big Apple: Forget Neighborhood Stations

Dizzy and his pirate cronies regard the latest high-tech communications as cool new ways to support radio. The Internet, for example, can be useful for broadcasting to members of their audience who live in concrete or metal buildings where they can't receive radio signals. He and some others also expect to add pirate TV to their local communications arsenal in about a year.

These micro-radioteers are growing increasingly ingenious in deploying a range of technologies in the service of radio. Mr. E., apirate who operates the Queens/Brooklyn PerfectRadio, 100.0 FM, to broadcast everything from Gen-X fare like Prince and Nirvana to Pakistani-language programming and direct reporting from local happenings like the Dorismond funeral, employs five to 10 CB transmitters. These feed into an unattended 30-watt FM transmitter rigged with an automatic timer. Mr. E. believes federal marshals can't serve a warrant on an unmanned transmitter and are unlikely to break down the door to seize it. "By combining license-free CB broadcasts with low-power FM transmissions," boasts Mr. E., "we are freeing more airwaves than most other pirate or legitimate radio stations."

From those like Mr. E., whose PerfectRadio creed includes the belief that tit and piss are not dirty words, to those like the Reverend Custodio, who wish to broadcast the sacred word of God, all these radio pioneers want to freely express the language and rhythms and worries of their neighborhoods right here in New York, an area which probably contains more disparate locales and voices within a few square miles than anywhere else in this country.

"I am no pirate": federal agents shut down the Reverend Custodio’s low-power radio station.
photo: Brian Finke
"I am no pirate": federal agents shut down the Reverend Custodio’s low-power radio station.

For the passionately committed, no technology is too high or too low. DJ Dizzy says his Free 103Point9 will also add CBs to the mix. "It's another way to move content into a transmitter," he says, but he also has bigger plans. Soon he will place a string and a cup in a public place where neighborhood folk can talk into it, and others will hear those voices on the radio and call in to respond.

A string and a cup? Surely he jests. No, indeed, replies Dizzy earnestly. "It's the technology that makes the most sense in that location." Then he adds with a laugh, "After all, it's the 21st century."

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