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Pirate Cat radio down; the people's air waves worse for it

National Council of ChurchesIt’s no-good-deed-goes-unpunished-time over San Francisco’s radio airwaves. As Jennifer Waits has reported, the city’s Pirate Cat radio station has ceased terrestrial broadcasting in response to a Federal Communications Commission fine against the service. Why was the station sanctioned, anyway? Let’s go through the possibilities.

Was it because Pirate Cat shortchanges Bay Area listeners by not broadcasting any local music and culture? Quite the contrary, the station streams tons of local music, club scene stuff, and opens its studios to a wide variety of local DJ talent who constantly talk up the Bay Area culture scene.

Was it because Pirate Cat doesn’t provide enough local news and information? Au contraire . . . the station runs news, interviews with Bay Area artists, and even various kinds of spoken word radio.

Was it because Pirate Cat isn’t diverse enough? Hell no. The station even broadcasts the Al Jazeera radio news service, doubtless making it the only signal to do so in the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

The truth is that Pirate Cat radio offers everything that the FCC asks of broadcasters and then some; indeed, far more than most other outlets provide. Bottom line: the station got bullied off the air because it lacks an FCC license. In the end, with our current regulatory system, if you’ve got the millions to buy a frequency, you can blow off your public interest obligations to your hearts’ delight. But if you haven’t got the bucks, all the local content, news, culture, and commitment won’t save you from the scanner truck.

And if that isn’t a shame, what is?

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