Pirate Cat Radio Fined $10k and Ceases FM Broadcast

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.”


Author: Kevin Montgomery

No one should have a biography at age 24.

27 thoughts on “Pirate Cat Radio Fined $10k and Ceases FM Broadcast”

  1. …if only someone could find a way to transmit someone else’s online-only broadcast over the airwaves without the knowledge or participation of Monkey, or PCR… then, who would FCC go after…? Hmmmmmm.

  2. A crying shame. I walked by last night at 1am and they were pumping their broadcast out of a cute little custom boombox on the front porch of the cafe. That’s pretty ballsy considering the neighborhood. Long Live Commander 14 and the NonChalants

  3. Save Pirate Cat!!!!

    Go to the cafe and buy stuff! Like Vegan Donuts. Or Bacon Maple Lattes! Or T Shirts! Make a dontation!

    DJ PsychoKat
    Greasers Garage
    Saturdays Noon-2
    Pirate Cat Radio

  4. Can’t understand why this didn’t happen years ago. The pirate radio model is unsustainable, AND the pirate-busting model has been out there for 40 years, AND internet radio has been around for, what, 10 years, AND I’ve never ever been able to get PCR on my actual radio even though I LIVE IN THE HEART OF THE FUCKING MISSION ACCORDING TO THE SIGNS. $10K is a small price to pay to be pretend cultural heroes for that many years.

    Hope the cafe business works out, though.

  5. They were causing interference to 88.1 in El Cerrito, and it’s a stretch for them to complain there were no complaints about their broadcast.

    Surprised they lasted so long. Pirates are getting shut down in SF every year it seems.

    Hope they thrive as an internet station. So many people have phones now that can pick up internet radio.

  6. Apparently, this happened back in August 31st:


    (read the whole thing at the above link, it’s most interesting)

    But here’s the meat of it:


    Released: August 31, 2009

    In this Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”), we find
    that Daniel K. Roberts a/k/a “Monkey Man” a/k/a “Monkey,” (“Roberts”)
    in San Francisco, California, apparently willfully and repeatedly
    violated Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended,
    by operating an unlicensed broadcast radio station on 87.9 MHz in San
    Francisco, California. We conclude, pursuant to Section 503(b) of the
    Communications Act of 1934, as amended (“Act”), that Roberts is
    apparently liable for a forfeiture in the amount of ten thousand
    dollars ($10,000).

    and this choice nugget:

    The PCR website also mistakenly claims its unlicensed operation is
    sanctioned by Section 73.3542 of the Rules, 47 C.F.R. S: 73.3542. We note
    that authority to operate pursuant to this Section must be granted by the
    FCC, and that the burden is on the applicant to show the required
    “extraordinary circumstances” to support such a grant. A-O Broadcasting
    Corporation, 23 FCC Rcd 603, 614 (2008). There is no record that Roberts
    and PCR have ever received such a grant of authority from the Commission.
    Additionally, the frequency used without authority by Roberts and PCR is
    87.9 MHz, which is not allocated to the FM broadcast band. See Section
    73.201 of the Rules, 47 C.F.R. S: 73.201.

    Here’s a previous warning they got in 2006 from the FCC:


    The San Francisco Office received information that an unlicensed broadcast
    radio station on 87.9 MHz was allegedly operating in San Francisco, CA. On
    February 15, 2006, agents from this office confirmed by direction finding
    techniques that radio signals on frequency 87.9MHz were emanating from
    1020 Post Street, San Francisco, CA, identifying as “Pirate Cat Radio.”
    The Commission’s records show that no license was issued for operation of
    a broadcast station at this location on 87.9MHz in San Francisco, CA.

    (I guess that’s why they had to move their transmitter so suddenly back then.)

  7. You know the city of San Francisco owns KALW 91.7. And it mostly runs NPR and other syndicated programming. We (the community) should put pressure on the city (via the Board of Supes) to get all local programming on KALW. Let’s make KALW a real community station, rather than just another NPR station.

    1. KALW has a lot of local programming, do you actually listen to it? I think the problem is more that they have a minuscule budget than that they don’t want to produce local programming. But they have a local news show and a variety of weekly programs covering various facets of Bay Area stuff. It’s no KPFA as far as that goes, but I think it’s pretty good given their resources.

  8. Dear Cranky Mission Man,

    Surely you understand that the transmitter had to be moved around…to locations, while very secret, perhaps were not in the mission? Considering that the top of a hill is a better spot for an antenna? Perhaps Cranky Mission Man will start his own heroic station? OR, hmm, mysteriously start broadcasting PCR from a more mission friendly location? Without the permission of Pirate Cat Radio, of course.

  9. http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/event.php?eid=189439463412&index=1

    Come on down this Thursday and help save Pirate Cat!

    Thursday, November 5, 2009
    6:00pm – 9:00pm
    Tonic Bar
    Polk @ Union
    San Francisco, CA

    Pirate Cat Radio is holding a fundraiser at Tonic Bar (Polk @ Union). We got fined $10,000 by the man and we need to pay it, stat (read below). So come drink this Thursday at Tonic from 6pm-9pm and leave tips because the tips will go to keeping various PCR members out of jail…

    From 6pm-7pm every drink on the menu is 2 for 1. So come early and drink often and tip heavily!

  10. Um, call me fancypants but the only radio I own is my clock radio and it’s on NPR in the morning -but immediately gets turned off in like 10 seconds.

    Stream via internets PCR, everything will be fine. Oh and be sure to archive those programs.

  11. To Mr. Nibbly’s point, Pirate Cat Radio continues to stream over the internet. The staff is intact and the programming continues unabated. There’s just a $10,000 cloud hanging over station and the terrestrial signal is off for now.

  12. Maybe they’ll start fining theyre djs for more ridiculous things then before to help raise that $10k.
    You get fined for anything btw volunteering there

  13. Yup, monkey isn’t much of a man (that IS why he dose all this, to be the man), but he SURE IS A DICK. He make the “volunteers” pay to work there and really only cares about what you can do for him. The whole “for the community” thing is total bullshit, something to hide behind and justify his empire of shit. You reap what you sow, it’s called karma.

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