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Feds move to shut radio station operating out of abandoned Blue Hill Avenue theater

UPDATE: The feds also seized a station called Big City FM.

A federal judge has given federal authorities permission to seize all the equipment belonging to B87 FM, an unlicensed music station operating at 87.7 FM out of an abandoned theater at 616-624 Blue Hill Ave. now owned by the New Fellowship Baptist Church of Dorchester.

The FCC began investigating the station on a complaint from a Cambridge resident, according to a warrant request filed earlier this month in US District Court in Boston and made public today. Unlicensed stations are allowed to broadcast at the frequency, but only at a very low power - which the station was exceeding by up to 48,000 times, according to test equipment run by FCC engineers.

According to the warrant request, from the US Attorney's office in Boston, FCC investigators were able to trace a coaxial antenna from the roof, near an AT&T cell-phone antenna into the abandoned theater. But they were unable to fully trace it to a possible station studio because the property manager who had allowed them in said he had to leave for another appointment before they could complete following the cable, and that they would have to leave as well.

The FCC says it sent three demands to shut the station to a woman believed to be its owner, but that she sent one back, undelivered and marked "Receiver did not want, refused delivery."

Over the past couple of decades, the FCC has alternated between ignoring the pirate radio stations that have emerged to serve minority groups ignored by mainstream media and taking aggressive action against them. In 2014, the FCC raided and shut Touch FM, a station that had become so popular that Boston politicians and even police officials made regular appearances on its talk shows.

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Comments

but pirate radio stations run out of abandoned theaters are among the coolest things on planet Earth.

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Corporatize the broadcast landscape, and this is what you get. We want the airwaves, baby!

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documented interference to other radio stations or other radio services. The former is a possibility within the broadcast bands, the latter is highly unlikely. Other than for that reason, they should generally be left alone.

As pirates are normally very low power and serve a very limited area, I would support the FCC finding a way to make them legal. There's enough available bandwidth within both the AM and FM broadcast spectrums to make this work out.

Disclaimer: I have been a licensed ham radio operator for over twenty years

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We saw that when our sitting President became a proven swindler and had to agree to pay out 25 million to his victims before he could be sworn in!

That's the law!!

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Just because its the law doesn't make it right. Slavery was the law.

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Are you equating comparing slavery to Pirate radio?

The right to be free....with the right to play hip-hop music on public airwaves...because you want to?

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It is a point on the law not equating the two. But if you support cracking down on victimless crimes that only exist because the corporations who generally were originally given the airways for free in the first place in exchange for "public service" but aren't serving low income and communities of color, because the law is the law you might just be an apologist for white supremacist capitalism.

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I happen to very much enjoy pirate radio stations, and go out of my way to seek them out. Just the idea that people go out of their way to express their differing ideas -- their community, what's important to them, what music they like -- is sort of inspiring.

I remember being thrilled when I first discovered B87.7. I'm sad that I can't get Big City 101.3 ever since some soft rock station started to broadcast over it. And I miss HappyFM 88.5 which used to broadcast middle eastern music til it got shut down.

I guess Pump Up the Volume really inspired me. Yes, I am dating myself.

Whatever the case, I will be sad to see one more independent voice go silent.

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Underground, like, on the subway? Or like the Walker Memorial Basement?

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I support WMBR financially AND love Big City FM, B87.7 and other non-maintstream music.

Frankly, this world needs to hear more and different voices, not just drown them out in homogenization.

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B87 FM is one station. But, in every city, pirate stations are not 'just one'.
They're pretty common.

The policy issue is:

  • Should radio stations be required to have a broadcast license?

Assuming that you're a NO.
Do you favor tax cheats as well?

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Right on schedule: Over the top righteous indignation in the name of the tax man. Such drama.

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What does one have to do with the other? Do you think you can get a broadcast license just by filling out a form and handing over some cash?

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I agree Boston now for sure, has NO real inner city forum.

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"The FCC began investigating the station on a complaint from a Cambridge resident,"

HAHAHAHAHAHOHOHOHOHEEHEE *cry*

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You don't think there's a single corporate media exec living in Cambridge?

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Who would do this in a heartbeat to feel better about themselves because people were having fun without paying the taxes/fees involved. (Think of the children!)

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>>Who would do this in a heartbeat to feel better about themselves because people were having fun without paying the taxes/fees involved.<<

Maybe someone who wanted to be able to listen to a station at 105.1 and couldn't with the pirate there.

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is that Cambridge prides itself on it's tolerance, but it's got just as many racists as Southie. The difference being a degree and a subscription to Harpers.

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If they get a license will they be allowed to get back in business? I don't know anything about the procedure to get a broadcasting license. What does one have to do?

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**is that Cambridge prides itself on it's tolerance, but it's got just as many racists as Southie.**

What does this have to do with the topic of radio?

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The audience of this pirate radio station.

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So stopping someone from behaving illegally.....has a lot to do with being racist.

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Here's an explanation for you. The call to rat these poor folks came from Cambridge, where most of the residents there can't even find Codman Square.

You know, the ones who have Black Lives Matter stickers on their Prius but still hit the door locks if a black kid comes near their car at the intersection of Fayerweather and Brattle?

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Voting closed 37

It has everything to do with this radio station. From their website: “Boston's Urban Hit Music Station — Now Playing More Hip-Hop, More Dancehall, More R&B, & More Urban Music!”

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So, if a flight controller, or air enthusiast reported their illegal activity, or someone who was getting hearing harmonics on their ham radio frequency....then they are racists?

Because they play black oriented music?

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cantabrigian scum. this was one of the best stations out there. how the does the fcc serve anyone with this. long live pirate radio. b87 keep it real and keep it online until you get a bus or boat

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Is it that difficult to get a broadcasting license?

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Even harder than getting a Boston liquor license.

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From FCC.gov

FCC IS NOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR NEW FM COMMERCIAL STATIONS

Word has it that in the past 20 years, the FCC has opened up two very small windows for new applications.

It is a taxi medallion scenario. Yes it is harder than getting a Boston liquor license, but only harder in major cities. I am not even gonna research this, but I bet you can pick up a FM commercial license on Ebay cheap, just not in a decent market.

UPDATE: Well, I researched it anyway and there is no such thing as a cheap license even in the middle of the desert. I smell crony capitalism. Low population regions are cheaper than Boston liquor licenses but still prohibitive/insane.

http://www.radiotvdeals.com/Home

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The number of slots available for any given broadcast technology is inherently limited by physical and engineering considerations. For taxi medallions the limit on the available number was 100% artificial

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The number of slots available for any given broadcast technology is inherently limited by physical and engineering considerations. For taxi medallions the limit on the available number was 100% artificial

I agree on your facts, but see things differently on the assessment of the current situation. .

Until there is way more dark blue in this map of FM radio coverage:

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/hNpBMpt.png)

then the moratorium by the FCC is as artificial as Boston with taxi medallions, though the taxi saturation would require a ridiculous amount while FM saturation (slotwise and engineering standpoint) is nearer to reality.

That map tells me that major cities are FM saturated but that saturation does not show up on moderately populated regions. What does show up in moderately populated regions is insanely overpriced radio stations due to the nationwide moratorium.

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Is it that difficult to get a broadcasting license?

Yes
By adamg on Wed, 03/28/2018 - 8:00pm

Even harder than getting a Boston liquor license.

And gosh darn it all - virtually impossible... when you never apply for one.

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...is in Cambridge, at MIT, in the basement of the Walker Memorial Building (see in a comment above a reference to that building).

Great programming. I bet that the Cambridge resident who filed the FCC complaint is a fan of this station.

Further, I bet that resident's nickname is theszak.

Oh...and streaming worldwide at wmbr.org. Yes, I am a fan and financial supporter. (MIT provides the station little more than the basement space.)

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in a library?

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Would this have played out the same way?

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If they were playing folk music from Porter, they'd be largely redundant because of the very excellent WUMB at 88.7 FM (listener and supporter).

(I take your point though)

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I'm not sure what station is at 88.7; you may want to listen around the top of the hour and then tell us the station ID.
WUMB is at 91.9.

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Early morning brain-fart. Parent is correct that 91.9 is their main station...

(For the sake of completeness, they do have a repeater at 88.7 in Milford, NH. I'm never around it though, so that was definitely a brain-fart)

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For your information I'm white and am I listener SOLELY of hip hop, 70s funk, old soul, 80s and 90s rap, probably because my cardiologist told me I should move more. Nothing like hip hop, old school rap, and other beats to get your heart pumping. Your narrow remark about folk music listeners needs to widen up a bit more, and so should your mind. My younger years were spent at the old Gallery on Mass. Ave, the 9 on Landsdowne on Monday nights (anyone out the remember Monday nights at the 9)??? But you are too young to remember that, are you? I think you "listeners of folk music in Porter Square" should watch Straight Outta Compton and open your mind more.

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I also remember picking up envelopes of cash from George Blacke for people whose name will be released after my death or their indictment, whichever comes first.

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Don't change.

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Unlike you , when I was a kid in this town that's the kind of shit I was doing while you were dreaming of being the failure in the big city that you are. I was also not growing up in a trailer park in East Bumfuck, or was that you also?

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And you still come back with that.

Please don't become a bitter, isolated old man.

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That's the smartest thing I've ever heard you say.

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This is below the FM broadcast band, which starts at 88.1, so it can't interfere with any licensed FM station. At one time, it might have interfered with Providence TV channel 6, but not once the TV station converted to digital transmission.

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Some airports have complained about pirates interfering with their tower telemetry/communication.

Sometimes it's a harmonic

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**This is below the FM broadcast band, which starts at 88.1, so it can't interfere with any licensed FM station.** There are harmonics that have been known to interfere with airport commination's and telemetry.

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This is unfortunate. I found this station last summer and have been listening to it since. The guy who hosted the morning shows was my favorite, provided a lot of different perspectives and insight during the Boston mayor race/election. Light years better than the standard mainstream garbage on the rest of the radio. Like another comment mentioned, probably someone affiliated with 88.1 that reported this since that station just happens to be in Cambridge, or a listener of that station who didn’t want to inadvertently tune into more “culture“

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Aron, I’m a little late to the convo, but great thanks for the kind words. Every day -- every hour for the past two weeks, we’ve received similar kind words from avid and casual B87 listeners and the morning show alike. It is really humbling to receive such feedback across the board in a city known for not always sharing the love. We are extremely proud of the perspective we’ve been able to add to Boston’s morning discourse. In particular, the fact that we’ve gotten so many young listeners engaged in conversations about city governance, as those talking about Cardi B and Drake. However; like most things in life, we're still a work in progress, but hope to continue to amplify the voices of Boston’s lower income residence, communities of color, immigrant community, and other underserved and marginalized demo that has been all but abandoned by both public and commercial radio, on the important issues that affect their daily lives. So a big thank you again for having our backs, it means a lot to me and everyone at B87. Peace & LUV! ~VOG

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Unlicensed stations are allowed to broadcast at the frequency, but only at a very low power - which the station was exceeding by up to 48,000 times

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This is an unallocated part of the FM spectrum, so they aren't interfering with a licensed FM station, as that other pirate recently was with WJIB-FM.

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If you park blocking a fire hydrant, and there doesn't happen to be a fire while you were parked there, the argument that you did no harm isn't going to get you out of a ticket. [and, in probability space, you did harm, but that's another discussion altogether]

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Voting closed 36

needing to use that hydrant while you're illegally parked in front of it is far greater than a commercial station deciding to set up shop on a particular frequency and not realizing there's potential interference from other stations, illegal or legal.

There's this thing called a frequency survey. Any halfway reputual consulting firm working on behalf of a broadcast license applicant knows what that is and how to prepare one.

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I for one am glad to learn that all violent crime has been eliminated, and we can now turn our resources to such enforcement activities.

(seriously, that's actually happening in Japan)

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I was about to say that you have to be a special kind of stupid to interfere with a commercial enterprise owned by frickin' Bloomberg, but I confused 106.3 with 101.3. Still dumb, though.

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Seems like with today's technology they could re-launch as Internet-only radio stations?

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Most of them do also stream on the internet, but they're not satisfied with only that. They want to be on the radio, albeit illegally.

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