Copyright © 1998 by the Boston Phoenix, Inc. All rights reserved.

This Just In: Media

Radio Free Allston's off-air crusade

By Dan Kennedy

Radio Free Allston will stage a one-day comeback -- on the ground rather than over the air -- aimed at building support for its court case against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which shut down the station last October 28 for broadcasting without a license ("Don't Quote Me," News, November 7).

The festivities will last from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 1, at Herrell's Renaissance Café, located at 155 Brighton Avenue. Radio Free Allston impresario Steve Provizer will show videos and play audiotapes from the archives to mark the first anniversary of the station, which burst onto the airwaves on March 1, 1997. The station featured music, politics, and local affairs in multiple languages, even garnering a resolution of support from the Boston City Council.

Provizer figures prominently in the burgeoning microbroadcasting movement, which in recent weeks has received favorable notices in the New Republic and USA Today. Microbroadcasters -- also known as "pirates," a label disdained by Provizer, who operated his station openly -- target a tiny geographic area using cheap, low-power equipment.

Trouble is, the FCC since 1978 has refused to grant licenses to stations of less than 100 watts, making it literally impossible for microbroadcasters to operate legally. Provizer, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, is fighting the FCC in federal court, arguing that "our First Amendment rights have been violated because an entire class of broadcasting has been forbidden."

The ins and outs of low-power broadcasting will be the subject of a workshop to be held Monday, March 2, at 7 p.m. at the Zeitgeist Gallery, located in Cambridge at 312 Broadway. Zeitgeist is the home of Radio Free Cambridge, currently broadcasting on a sporadic basis. Among the speakers will be visitors from Radio Mutiny, also known as West Philadelphia Pirate Radio, sponsors of a microbroadcasting conference to be held next month.

For more information on the Radio Free Allston event, contact Provizer at 617-232-3174, or check out his Web site at http://www.tiac.net/users/error/radiofreeallston. For more information on the Monday workshop, contact Alan Nidle at 617-623-1065.