Local Projects: Berkeley Liberation Radio

Berkeley’s premiere Pirate radio station, broadcasting on its 104.1 FM band since the early 90’s, is staggering back to it’s feet. Berkeley Liberation Radio, the present incarnation, has been squatting the air waves since 1999. When BLR started, Free Radio Berkeley — which had broadcast on 104.1 earlier in the 90s — was embroiled in an ugly legal battle and hence defunct. Activists retook the band when the court case was at a deadlock.

Shortly before the 6 year anniversary of Berkeley Liberation Radio, the studio’s landlord, a scummy music promoter, gave a 30 day notice which was followed by a notice from the FCC. The FCC said the 100 watt station interfered with airport control radio from over 8 miles away. Some suspect the FCC had pressured the landlord for eviction and convinced the judge signing the order that it was an emergency since that is a tactic the FCC often uses when otherwise ignored.

For two months, broadcasting continued at sporadic locations on Sundays until a temporary home was found at the Hellarity House in North Oakland. A considerable amount of shows were lost with the move as well as the station’s music library.

The Bay Area is home to a dozen micro stations, many of whom focus on web broadcasting. Stations in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Santa Rosa are all on-line after confrontations with the FCC. Three years ago Berkeley Liberation Radio was raided with a strong police presence. Guns were put in the DJ’s face, the equipment stolen and a sad silence for at least a week was all there was to tune into. The station was built back up moving from marginal equipment to quality shit. Despite concerns of a subsequent raid The station didn’t move onto the web nor did it move out of its studio. The issue of making monthly rent was just being resolved with a schedule of due paying dj’s when the 2005 eviction came down.