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Free Radio Berkeley To Offer Workshop On Building Low-Power FM Station

Free Radio Berkeley (FRB) has a notice on its Web site announcing a four day workshop they are sponsoring to teach you how to build FM broadcast transmitters and set up a 15 to 100 Watt community radio station. The workshop will be held at FRB's shop in West Oakland, CA. The Web site mentions that one of its entities, Free Radio Berkeley 104.1 FM, has been silenced, but it says another entity, Free Radio Berkeley IRATE (International Radio Action Training, Education) "provides transmitter kits, technical support and training and is involved in national and international outreach and organizing efforts." FRB adds "our transmitters and other related equipment are being used by popular liberation struggle movements in a number of countries."

Tuition for the workshop varies from $100 to $200 and the average cost of the FM broadcast transmitter kits runs between $300 and $600. The Web site describes the organization's battles with the FCC and offers this advice to unlicensed broadcasters:

"If the FCC shows up at your door, do not let them in unless they have a search warrant or an equipment seizure order. Further, do not speak to them or volunteer any information, and do not hand over any equipment without a written legal order which must specify exactly what is to be seized. Take charge of the situation, grab a camera (still or video) and start filming them (this usually causes them great discomfort). Their chief weapon is intimidation (they may try to lean on your landlord if you are a renter -- forestall this by talking to your landlord ahead of time and explain that you are engaging in 1st Amendment activities -- not running a drug lab -- and that he/she cannot be held liable for your Free Speech activities by the FCC) and a lack of self confidence and knowledge on their intended victim's part. Enforcement policies are not consistent from district to district. Finally, do not freak out, they are only Federal geeks with badges, no guns unless they bring backup support which is rare unless they are really serious about seizing your transmitter. Do seek legal counsel and plan ahead."

I'd add this bit of advice. Before any readers consider setting up an unlicensed broadcast station, be warned that the FCC does take these operations seriously. Conviction for operation of an unlicensed facility (on any frequency) will likely prevent you from receiving any other licenses (broadcast or even ham radio) from the FCC and will almost certainly result in any licenses you already hold being revoked. Robert Gonsett's CGC Communicator has had extensive coverage of the FCC's actions against unlicensed 'pirate' broadcasters.