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TUCoPS :: Radio :: kzar_sto.txt

Story about KZAR, pirate radio station




As it appeared in "The Private Eye," Utah's Independent Newspaper, the
October 13, 1993 issue:

RENEGADE SOUNDWAVES
---
A local pirate station adds moxie to a crowded radio market, but the
FCC isn't impressed.
---
By Ben Fulton

If you can't afford the $100,000-plus pricetag required to start a
standard radio station, if you've tired of commercial alternative
stations that play Bowie's "Suffragette City" ad nauseam, don't fret.
It's easy for you to take matters into your own hands.
	Try this recipe for making your own radio waves: 1) Know the
right electronics equipment dealers in town, they'll hook you up with
parts to make a transmitter (about $50 per 5 watts: you'll probably
want at least 20 watts); 2) Buy an antenna, a microphone, maybe a
filter, a mixer and a CD player; 3) Round up your friends, vote on a
format, choose a frequency, boost your power, then -- oh, so snidely --
snub your nose at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  You
owe it to yourself.  After all, you broke the rules -- or, more
exactly, the law.
	This rebellious, and, when you add music, romantic heisting of
the airwaves was played out by Christian Slater in 1990's "Pump Up the
Volume."  In Salt Lake City recently, it's become radio reality on
Saturday nights at 11:30, sans the "young-man-with-something-to-say"
attitude of the Hollywood movie.
	Promoting itself by way of flyers in Salt Lake City coffee
shops, KZAR, or Zion Alternative Radio, prides itself as a breed apart
from "those commercial money-grubbing giants."  That explains its
"measly" output power of 35 watts.
	"After extensive research and help from listeners," so says
the station's voice mail, four areas were scouted for best reception.
Guaranteeing that Salt Lake's upper-class won't be deprived of pirate
radio, KZAR comes in best in the Olympus Cove and East Benches area.
The other three are the Murray Area, the West Valley Area, and,
naturally, the higher North Benches and Capitol Area.  If you want to
listen to KZAR in domestic comfort, you've got to wire up your
receiver and string an antenna out the window.  Otherwise, KZAR is
radio for the road.
	Nestled between KBYU (89.1) and KUER (90.1), KZAR seats its
throne at 89.5 FM.  Station manager Dmitri Baughman (a pseudonym)
chose a lower band because, reportedly, the FCC is more lenient on
pirate (unlicensed) broadcasters using the educational frequencies, as
opposed to the higher frequencies of commercial radio.  Pirate radio
is not a violation the FCC takes lightly.  "They [pirate stations] are
illegal.  The FCC has sole jurisdiction over airwaves and broadcast
signals for the public domain," said Tom Hora, public affairs officer
for FCC's eastern California field office, which regulates Utah
airwaves.
	Recently, in California operators for the station Free Radio
Berkeley were apprehended and fined $20,000.  Federal regulations
governing radio stem from the Communication Act of 1934, which ruled
that the airwaves, unlike print media, are public, not private
property.  The United States isn't alone, as Italy is the only country
that doesn't crack down on free radio operators.  Hora makes the point
that pirate broadcasters interfere with other stations' legitimate
use, cost consumers money, and even endanger lives.
	"What if a commerical airline can't reach the control tower
because of a pirate frequency?  It has to turn around and try again.
That costs the airline fuel, which is passed on to consumers," Hora
says.  "What if the pirate frequency jams communication between police
and firemen and they can't respond to an emergency?" he says with a
wild voice.
	The FCC isn't even the least bit curious about why people
broadcast illegally.  Pirates are just a pain in the neck.  "Why do
people shoplift?  Why do people do things they shouldn't do?  It's
impossible to determine," says FCC engineer Bill Zears.
	Nationwide, the motives are as varied as the U.S. population.
Until recently, an Illinois man used his homemade station to broadcast
jazz and black nationalist news and opinions on such topics as police
brutality.  In Michigan, one couple used a transmitter to broadcast
anti-gay propaganda, and, of course, Neo-nazis get in on the act.
Overseas, the aim is more about music.  English pirate station
Caroline even led directly to the country's first popular music
station, BBC's Radio 1.
	Baughman's motives are personal and political, not overtly
malicious or sociopathic.  His first introduction to the idea was
through the computer network, Internet.  Since then, he's been
broadcasting on-and-off since late June.  Undertstandably, Baughman
declined an in-person interview and photos.
	"To be honest, I like to play DJ.  It's a small movement and I
wanted to be part of it.  I'm pretty much anti-government anyway," he
says.  Baughman and his group of "sandbox" radio enthusiasts, as he
puts it, have enough power to broadcast over the entire valley, but
need a higher antenna, an item that's next in line for purchase.
	The listening menu is a loose "alternative" format that,
disappointingly, often veers on the commercial, especially on Chloe
Devereaux's "Blood, Death, and Roses" segment of the broadcast.  The
The, New Order and INXS are probably the last bands you'd expect to
hear on a pirate station.  They're easy pickings on commercial radio,
but KZAR is proud to bring them to you.  Broadcasting into 4 a.m.,
however, the mix became more subversive: Meat Beat Manifesto, Sex
Gang Children, and techno-rave beats.
	The best feature of KZAR is its news segment, chock full of
enough conspiracy theories to make Oliver Stone look like an amateur.
News item: "The U.S. Government is using closed-captioned decoders
installed in TV sets to obtain classified information about American
homes."
	Pirate radio's national agenda reaches far above mere music,
though.  According to Baughman, its true goal is to obtain FCC rights
for micro-broadcasting licensure, more reasonable licensing costs, and
get FCC bureaucrats to tune in to the positive effects of small
stations serving the community.
	That will be a long time coming.  Until then, Baughman and
crew will turn on the transmitter every Saturday night and claim a
small piece of turf among Salt Lake City's 40-odd radio stations.
Other stations have yet to complain to the FCC about any signal
interference.
	"I really don't give it [pirate radio] much legal thought,"
Baughman says.  "When something does happen and I do get caught, I'll
worry about it then."


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