community-based, non-corporate, participatory media

About Contact Us Policies Mailing Lists Radio Video Publish! Calendar Search

View article without comments

pittsburgh: FCC Radio Silenced
by vincent / blast furnace radio Friday, Oct. 01, 2004 at 5:56 AM 1-888-NOTOWAR


Radio Silenced
FCC says oral-history site must shut its mouth


More than three years after he started one of Pittsburgh’s tiniest radio stations, artist Bob Bingham was told it was illegal to run it anymore. As part of the city-funded PublicArtPittsburgh program, in 2001 Bingham launched South Side Radio, a low-wattage station carrying oral-history style interviews with neighborhood residents ranging from old-timers and coffeehouse patrons to tattoo artists and poets. On a good day, 102.9 FM could be heard as far away as Oakland, and Bingham believed its power level was too low to require a license.

But now South Side Radio is silent altogether: On Sept. 17, Bingham took a call from a Federal Communications Commission engineer who told him that his station did need a license. Later that day, Amy Camp of the South Side Local Development Company, Bingham’s partner in the project, pulled the plug on the transmitter housed on the second floor of the South Side’s Carnegie Library.

“I asked him three times if he listened to the content,” said Bingham of the FCC rep. “He said, ‘I don’t listen to the content. It’s the principle. It’s illegal.’”

Bingham, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a founder of the Brew House artists’ collective, created South Side Radio to preserve and disseminate voices from the community. Its slate of interviews, many conducted by artist and performer Alexi Morrissey, had grown to four hours, was played 24 hours a day, and got some publicity locally; Bingham planned to add to the archive. The station ran off a 1-milliwatt transmitter, and Bingham said he finds it hard to believe the FCC’s assertion that it exceeded the limits for an unlicensed station by a factor of “50 to 100.” Bingham also said he was told unlicensed stations are forbidden to be heard at distances exceeding 300 feet, whereas South Side Radio could be heard up to a mile away.

Reached by phone in Washington, D.C., FCC spokesperson Janice Wise was unable to illuminate the rules governing unlicensed stations, and wouldn’t comment on South Side Radio other than to say the case is closed. Bingham, meanwhile, hopes South Side Radio is just sleeping. He plans to apply for a license, and if that doesn’t work, he’ll revisit whether he’s broadcasting over the power threshold.

add your comments

City Paper article
by David Meieran Friday, Oct. 01, 2004 at 8:09 PM

Thanks, Vince. It boggles the mind that the FCC would complain about a one-milliwatt transmitter.

Bob Bingham's web site:

City Paper article:

add your comments

by pgh pirate radio Tuesday, Oct. 05, 2004 at 7:04 PM

In solidarity with the low-power fm stations that have came under attack by the FCC. Pittsburgh will be home to a new LPFM station that is community centered and community supported.

Expect updates as progress happens ;)

add your comments

by some guy Tuesday, Oct. 05, 2004 at 7:18 PM

I'm pretty sure he's incorrect when he says "1 milliwatt". He must mean 1 watt. you would not be able to hear a 1mW station 1 mile away except maybe in a vaccuum :)

add your comments

© 2001-2009 Pittsburgh Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not endorsed by the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center.
Disclaimer | Privacy