Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Jul 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Finding Free Radio

news_readioLocal pirate radio station shutdown, seeks new broadcasting site

Are you wondering why feedback noise and bits of a conservative talk show now crackle in your ears when you attempt to tune into Free Radio Santa Cruz (FRSC) at 101.1FM?

The popular pirate radio station has its own official “day” in Santa Cruz—declared on March 27 of last year by then mayor Mike Rotkin—but its radio transmitter has been homeless since Aug. 12.

“We’re looking for a [transmitter host] site,” says FRSC programmer “Uncle Dennis,” whose show has aired for 14 of the station’s 16 years on the air. “What we’d like to do is have a couple of sites in the barrel in case one doesn’t work out, but we’re still looking for a site so we can let folks know that we’re back on the air.”

The station left the airwaves when federal agents from the San Francisco branch of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hand-delivered cease and desist papers to the house from which FRSC has broadcasted for the last year.

According to the FRSC website, the FCC “notice of unlicensed radio operation” stated in part: “A valid FCC radio station license for your radio transmission on 101.1 mhz was not in evidence at the time of attempted inspection…”

The landlord of a house hosting FRSC’s transmitter decides whether or not to ask the station to move when an FCC letter arrives.  FRSC’s policy is to respect the landlord’s decision.

In August, the owner of the host house chose to comply with the FCC notice and local broadcasting was put on hold.

“Unless the host site wants to actually engage with the FCC, all they do is tell us that the FCC has been around and that they’d like us to move,” says Uncle Dennis.

In the case of a serious fine or crackdown, FRSC, not the host house, would incur all costs.

Agusto Cesar Sandino Segundo has hosted an FRSC show on Monday evenings for eight years. “We would never leave our host locations high and dry,” he says. “As a collective we’re dependent on people helping us, so we need to be willing to help people right back if need be. It’s a two way street—if they’re going to help us broadcast, we can’t just be like ‘Oh, sorry you got a $10,000 fine, see ya’ later.’”

Aside from one military-style raid of the FRSC station headquarters seven years ago, the FCC has hit the station with little more than hollow threats every year or two.

Uncertified radio broadcasting is not a criminal offense, so the most likely punishment the station would encounter is a fine. Local authorities would have to cooperate with the FCC in order for the station to face legal trouble.

Community support buffers most potential threats to FRSC. For example, when the military-style raid occurred in 2004, more than 200 indignant residents arrived on the scene; the tires of the federal agents’ vehicles were slashed, and the agents’ illegal parking jobs were ticketed by local police.

People who work with FRSC do so on a volunteer basis, largely propelled by a dedication to freedom of access to information.

“Myself and all the other programmers are fully aware of the risks involved in running a pirate radio station,” says Uncle Dennis. “Every applicant [is] apprised of what we do and how we do it, and what the potential risks are. … If anyone at the station was personally prosecuted, the rest of the programmers would rally around them, and I’m sure Santa Cruz listeners of Free Radio would help them as much as they could. We are a collective, we will hang together.”

Segundo holds the FCC in violation of the first amendment, as it does not promote truly free access to information.

“There is this chain of command inside media ownership that I think doesn’t allow for alternative and minority and dissenting viewpoints to be heard,” he says. “I think stations like ours are essential, and, dare I say, patriotic. ... If they want to prosecute me for expressing my opinions and playing my music, then that shows how not free we really are. If I can help unveil that illusion of freedom, that would be fine.”

Since the most recent shutdown of the station’s transmitter, FRSC has sought a new broadcast location. Interested parties are encouraged to email the station, reminded that the station will pay for all electricity costs incurred due to hosting the transmitter.

According to Uncle Dennis, a viable transmitter location would be somewhere on the East or Westside of the city, as downtown is between bluffs in a bad position for broadcasting.

As one of longest running pirate radio stations in history, FRSC refuses to shut down, transmitter or not. FRSC continues to broadcast 24/7 online at freakradio.org.

“There are a lot of people even internationally that listen to us online, so we feel that even though we are not broadcasting to our immediate community, it’s important to continue,” says Segundo. “It’s encouraging that when we do go off the air I always hear about it from people asking where we are, or when we’ll be back.”

When FRSC gets back to broadcasting, they do not have any plans to change frequency, however they are always careful not to interfere with existing certified radio stations. Members of the station say they are eager to return to the airwaves.

“Radio has always been one of the most democratic and accessible forms of media,” says Segundo. “You don’t need to pay for a subscription fee, access through the Internet, expensive gear or anything else like that to use a radio. … We’re proud to be one of the stewards of pirate radio.”


For more information about Free Radio Santa Cruz, visit freakradio.org. To contact the station, call 427-4523 or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Photo: Jesse Clark

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by groads, September 28, 2011
fight on!
public radio is a beautiful thing!

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 25

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.