Free Radio - The Medium is the Manifesto

As night rolls across San Francisco Bay and rushes westward, micropower FM transmitters are filling the FM broadcast band with a true diversity of voices and programs. Voices that defy and challenge the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) control of the airwaves. As a captive of corporate media interests the FCC is the chief enforcer for the media monopoly. A monopoly which defines reality and creates its own consensus. As an instrument of global corporate neo-feudalism it seeks total social control and fealty. Further, it creates a culture of insatiable desires whose world devouring appetite can never be truly met. Promoting racism, sexism, class division, patriarchy, addiction, and violence, this media monopoly lives at the virtual address located on the corner of divide and conquer.

Affirming the right to communicate as a basic constitutional and human right, low power FM stations are taking to the airwaves in ever growing numbers in a campaign of electronic civil disobedience to break the corporate media stranglehold on the free flow of news, information, ideas, artistic and cultural expression. Offering unique and fresh perspectives reflective of the communities they represent, these micropower stations have the potential of creating a climate in which true community can be created and nurtured. Communities in which all human rights, including adequate food, clothing and shelter, are respected and fulfilled.

Despite the efforts of the FCC to halt this ever growing movement through the threats of fines and legal sanction micropower stations continue to flourish and grow. Radio Libre (103.3) operating from the Mission District offers a diverse and multicultural programming mix in both Spanish and English. In the western portions of the city San Francisco Liberation Radio (93.7 FM) provides excellent documentaries on local and national issues. Comic relief is provided by the Jolly Roger Radio Comedy Troupe who satirize everything from the Olympics to local politicians. SFLR also produces the monthly Food Not Bombs Radio Network program heard on a number of stations across the United States and Canada. New voices will be soon taking to the air in other parts of San Francisco.

To the north across the Golden Gate Bridge alternative voices are heard in Sausalito, San Rafael and other areas of Marin County. Meanwhile, covering the East Bay cities of Berkeley, Oakland El Cerito, Albany and Alameda, Free Radio Berkeley (104.1 FM) continues to broadcast 24 hours a day with a collective staff of 50-60 people. Further to the south in the towns of Watsonville and Salinas, populated by migrants and farm workers, Mexicano, la Raza and Zapatista voices are taking to the air as well. Nearby these communities is Free Radio Santa Cruz (96.3 FM) operating 24 hours a day. Much further to the South across the Rio Grande, transmitters built by Free Radio Berkeley are on the air in the barrios of Mexico City and the state of Chiapas.

Indeed, a revolution is underway here. One that seeks to democratize all forms of media and communications. Voices of rebellion have taken to the air to defy and bring down an avaricious and corrupt system. Broadcast stations providing not only the poetry, music and spoken word of inspiration but the vital information required for an empowered struggle. Where else can one hear the voices and art of street poets, gang members, homeless persons, activists, punkers, immigrants and many more ? Truly, micropower broadcasting is technology for the people.

Inspired by Mabana Kantako of Black Liberation Radio, Free Radio Berkeley continues to be pivotal in the current micropower broadcasting movement by its open defiance of the FCC and ongoing legal challenge to its regulatory authority. Aided by the National Lawyers Guild Committee onDemocratic Communications and NLG attorney Luke Hiken Free Radio Berkeley still continues to successfully defeat an ongoing attempt by the FCC to silence the 30 watt station with a Federal Court injunction. For the first time in the history of the FCC a Federal District Court judge, Claudia Wilken, refused to grant them an injunction to shut down an unlicensed broadcast station. Her ruling, based on constitutional concerns, has created a window of opportunity for micropower broadcasting which will remain open until the legal merits and facts are either accepted or rejected by the courts. Other individuals such as Richard Edmondson of SF Liberation Radio and Bill Dougan of Phoenix, Arizona have been threatened with fines of $10,000 and $17,500 respectively but are not facing the possibility of court imposed sanctions at this time.

Defending the status quo, the FCC said, in a recent decision regarding the administrative appeal of Free Radio Berkeley, that it would not be in the public interest to provide a voice for the voiceless through low power FM service. They went on to say that the full service broadcasters serve the greatest diversity of voices, rejecting entirely the notion of a low power (under 100 watts) FM service. Paraphrasing NLG attorney Peter Franck, under their model you only have free speech so long as you speak from a solid gold podium. Under the current regulatory structure the start-up costs can be easily be $100,000 or more. With micropower broadcasting a community FM station can be put on the air for $1000 or less.

Micropower broadcasting is more than the leaflet of the 90's it is a tool by which to organize and bring about fundamental social change. For far too long the corporations have been allowed to steal and fence off the natural resources of this planet, including the airwaves. It is time to tear down the fences, grind the no trespassing signs into the ground and take back what belongs to everyone on this planet. We need to use these resources for the good of all instead of the self-agrandizement of the few. If you want to make micropower broadcasting a reality and a revolutionary force in your community, contact Free Radio Berkeley at the following address and phone numbers.

Free Radio Berkeley 1442A Walnut St. #406 Berkeley, CA 94709

(510) 464-3041 email: