[JPL] WBGO atttacked by pirates

Nick Francis nfrancis at kplu.org
Sun Dec 23 19:41:55 EST 2007

Pirate radio alive and well in Brooklyn.  And the FCC does nothing. (From the NYT)



Nick Francis - KPLU Music Director



December 23, 2007

Brooklyn Up Close

With Airwaves Under Assault, Radio Stations Raise the Alarm 


ON Monday night at 10:27, listeners to the Newark-based jazz station WBGO could hear the legendary Red Norvo plunking away at the final bars of “Have You Met Miss Jones?” The station’s signal, at 88.3 FM, blankets the city from Tottenville at the southern tip of Staten Island to Riverdale in the north Bronx. 

But WBGO fans in the heavily Haitian neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn, could not hear Norvo’s glistening arpeggios. At that moment on that frequency, the Flatbush listeners instead heard an echoing voice pitching a wonder pill in Creole. “Haitians!” the man cried over a raucous background of horns and drums. “This medicine cures all maladies! Constipation, depression, high cholesterol, even AIDS!” 

The intruding signal came from a low-power pirate broadcaster, one of many in Flatbush and nearby neighborhoods that bedevil the major stations by blocking their signals. 

“They’re killing us,” said Cephas Bowles, the general manager of WBGO. “They don’t respect the F.C.C., and they don’t respect the stations that have legally been licensed to operate.” According to Mr. Bowles, listeners have been calling in daily with complaints.

Brooklyn, over the years, has been home to dozens of pirate broadcasters, chattering in every language from Spanish to Yiddish. The Haitian-American community, with its traditional fondness for radio, is an especially receptive audience. But representatives of licensed stations say that for reasons they cannot pinpoint, the number and persistence of the pirates squatting on their frequencies has been increasing. 

George Evans, the head engineer at WFUV, the [http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/f/fordham_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org] Fordham University radio station, said that a rising resentment about Spanish and Creole pirates had prompted him to solicit listener complaints on the station’s Internet home page. The station has received 294 complaints since the notice went up in August, Mr. Evans said, most of them from listeners in Brooklyn and Paterson, N.J.

Both Mr. Evans and Mr. Bowles said that they had complained to the [http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/f/federal_communications_commission/index.html?inline=nyt-org] Federal Communications Commission, but that the agency was slow to act against pirates. Since 2005, the commission has fined only one pirate broadcaster in Brooklyn, a man named Elroy Simpson of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, who in January was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. 

In response to questions, David Fiske, an F.C.C. spokesman, would say only, “We don’t comment on our investigative processes.”

But Mr. Evans of WFUV had some advice for legislators. “Florida has a very strict law where the police will come to your house, seize your equipment and throw you in jail,” he said. “That’s what they need for New York.” 




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