The skinny: the FCC fined Pirate Cat $10,000 and is effectively taking them off the air. Instead, they will switch to an internet-only format and continue run the cafe on 21st.
Sometimes blockquoting a press release is just easier than reporting:
Pirate Cat Radio, a volunteer-run, community broadcasting organization operating out of the Pirate Cat Café in San Francisco’s Mission district, has ceased its terrestrial broadcast on 87.9FM in response to the latest demands of the Federal Communications Commission.
In a notice dated August 31, 2009 the FCC asserted that Monkey, the founder of Pirate Cat Radio, “willfully and repeatedly violated Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934” and proposed to fine him $10,000 for the infraction.
By bringing to bear the full weight of the Federal government against continued broadcast operations, the FCC’s order effectively ends Pirate Cat Radio’s thirteen-year run as one of the Bay Area’s most consistent voices of protest against corporate-run media monopolies and monocultural programming.
The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934, and was given the responsibility of making a “fair, efficient and equitable distribution of radio service”, and to ensure that broadcasters serve the ‘public interest’.
It is hard to understand how fining the founder of Pirate Cat Radio, an entirely volunteer run community station, and effectively taking them off the air after 13 years, is an appropriate action and in the public’s interest There have never been any complaints over PCRs content. Pirate Cat Radio provides an important community service one that has been recognized by the Board of Supervisors in a certificate of honor. They are one of the best sources of news and regularly broadcast Al Jazeera and BBC bulletins. The news is read in every 2-hour DJ slot. They make regular valuable PSAs and publicize local events. They take an active approach to involving the community, by bringing local unsung heroes and talents into the studio. Pirate Cat Radio provides a voice and outlet for many sections of the community of the Bay Area which cannot make themselves heard anywhere else.
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.
Looking to the future, PCR can continue as an internet only station and the café/studio on 21stst will continue to operate, but at least for the time being, but it cannot safely broadcast over the terrestrial FM band without possibly jeopardizing its volunteers and supporters. How this will affect the service is not clear yet, although it is true that the majority of their listeners are now online or downloading podcasts.
“Obviously this is a major disappointment,” says Monkey, “But we made a collective decision that Pirate Cat Radio must come off the public airwaves, until some method is found to change the law or get it authorized under existing law.”