The Last Bastions of Outlaw Radio

Pissed everyone off at BLR

In our brave new information universe, music fans win. Podcasts, online streaming, social media … nobody needs over-the-airwaves terrestrial radio anymore. So why, then, are there still unlicensed pirate radio stations? Because it is “rebellious, illegal, exciting, and righteous,” says Meg Escudé, currently a DJ at Mutiny Radio, a pirate outfit in the San Francisco Bay Area. But running a station without an FCC license means risking bankruptcy due to fines, plus the annoyance of moving the transmitter from rooftop to rooftop just a few steps ahead of the Feds.

The Internet may be easier, but it doesn’t have the same unadulterated romanticism. “Radio is radio,” says John Hell, an 18-year vet of illegal stations and head of another San Francisco pirate station, Radio Valencia. “It means turning on the tube, heating it up, turning the dial, putting your voice out there, and having your community respond right then.” Just don’t expect the station to be in the same place on the dial tomorrow. While a few bastions of piracy still linger—we made you a list—you should probably tune in before the FCC sees this issue of Wired.

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