by David Downs
Thousands of Bay Area pirate radio fans are learning this week that the region's biggest illicit station, Pirate Cat Radio, has been fined $10,000 by the FCC and has taken down its 1,200-watt, San Francisco-based transmitter.
According to the thirteen-year-old station's manager, who legally changed his name to "Monkey," the station received the fine August 31, and if the station's pirate signal returns, a warrant will be issued for his arrest. The fine and threats ended a decade-long detente with local regulators, who had looked the other way until PCR garnered immense popularity in the last year, including a feature on the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain No Reservations.
Housed since 2007 in a retail cafe space and recording studio at 21st and Florida Streets in the Mission District of San Francisco, the all-volunteer staff of about eighty (many from Oakland) has scrambled this Fall to devise numerous fund-raising activities like sales of T-shirts, and 2010 calendars — but it's not clear how the station will cover the fine. Even after the fine is paid, the station cannot broadcast its signal without further, severe repercussions from the FCC.
Pirate Cat Radio continues to stream to a half a million listeners per month via its web site and syndication services like iTunes, but the station is not paying royalties on those streams, and an online crackdown could follow.
Monkey in a written statement says: "If the public's interests are to be served then ordinary' people must be allowed to make their voice heard and to be allowed to express themselves creatively without regard for commercial success. The FCC's policy instead seems to be protecting the airwaves for the big corporations to pump out their bland, homogenized wasteland offering dull limited playlists, banal chat, and censored opinions. Until this happens people must continue to challenge the corporate domination of the airwaves."