Back in the 60’s and 70’s I used to love to visit cousins who lived in New York City. The city was teeming with pirate radio stations, some of which only covered a few blocks. You could hear music that never made it onto any of the big company stations, whether latin, fusion, or jazz, San Francisco also had several famous pirate radio stations, which played part in the emerging culture of Haight-Ashbury.
Our technological society has allowed folks to create and voice their opinions through the airwaves. As in anything, some of that is good, some mediocre – depending on the originators and the thought put into their work. Seems like 100 years ago, but in the pre-internet age, there was an effort to re-create “Low-Power Radio“, to license station covering small area, such as community as democratic means of expression and local interest outside of the mainstream media. So called Pirate Radio was common prior to the 80’s, principally in urban areas, and derived their audiences from folks tired of the basic canned Top 40 formats and weak community interest programs by the licensed operators. It was pretty much eviscerated by Reagan era FCC rules. Black folks operated pirate radio, because of the “daylight rule” and difficulty in getting licensed. The FCC limited the number of stations in an area in any particular format. In the 50’s and 60’s almost no black radio stations were allowed to operate between the hours of sunset and sunrise on the then popular AM Spectrum.
That changed after Reagan, and there was an effort to restart the format. I started a LPR Station in the late 70’s which was looking to use low power as a means of communications in a business area, oriented toward providing information to the community about training and education being offered, events, business talks by local ventures, and interviews of local businessmen. The stiffening regulations of the Reagan FCC pretty much put the end to that effort due to the rising expense and regulations favoring the big companies. The goal had been to leverage that into the emerging Low Power TV in 1982 – however, the price on that skyrocketed, making breaking even extremely difficult. Since then, LPR and LPTV never really took off, but folks are still trying. Some people believe it is the future of free over-the-air-radio. The cost of entry into LPR is less than $1,000 today, and the broadcast range, receivable by standard FM Receivers is about 3 miles. LPTV is substantially more expensive, due to the migration to Digital.
A modern equivalent of LPR is the YouTube Channel. No longer restricted by geographic region, small operators may host their own news and opinion shows. Three of the videos below are from just that sort of show. This group about the confederate flag…