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Radio Free America

By Jim Whitehead

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The following item is taken from page 16 of the October 1973 edition of SPEEDX. It is placed here with permission of SPEEDX.

Compiled from articles which appeared in the N.Y. Times 20 and 21 September 1973.

America's first "pirate" broadcaster took to the air at 12:23 PM on 19 September from a location some 12 miles off Cape May New Jersey. With the words "This is Radio Free America,the silence of the sea is broken at 1160 on the AM dial", Dr. Carl McIntire fufilled his pledge to continue broadcasting after the F.C.C. shut down his station in Media PA WXUR. The broadcasts lasted only a day, however, as technical difficulties developed and the transmitter was shut down until some minor adjustments could be made.

Radio Free America was born after the F.C.C. shut down WXUR last July for allegedly misrepresenting programming plans and favoring conservative over liberal speakers, a violation of the F.C.C. "fairness doctrine". Charging the FCC violated his right of "free speech", McIntire choose the "pirate" broadcasting route to escape F.C.C. jurisdiction.

Delayed for a time by money and legal problems, McIntire finally arranged for the use of a former minesweeper the S.S. Oceanic, and outfitted it with a 10kW transmitter. The 138 ft. wood hulled vessel put to sea on 30 August but first the loss of a sea anchor and later transmitter troubles delayed the commencement of broadcasting. Finally, however, the difficulties were overcome and, on 19 September, broadcasting was begun only to be discontinued a day later.

The termination of broadcasting on 20 September was the decision of Dr. McIntire after he received a complaint from station WHLW in Lakewood, New Jersey that Radio Free America was interferring with its signal on 1170 khz. Dr. McIntire is quoted as saying "There is no dearth of wavelengths and we do not went to interfer with other stations." Present plans call for Radio Free America to try to eliminate the problem of interference through the use of a directional antenna but, if that fails, a move to 1613 khz is contemplated.

The shutdown also stalled for the the moment the confrontation that was brewing with the F.C.C.. Initially the F.C.C. simply-trailed the ship as it cruised along making no attempt to interfer. However, the F,C,C, plans to seek a restraining order in Federal Court should broadcasting resume. The order will be sought on the grounds that the converted mine sweeper,which is of U.S. registry, must have a license under the terms of the Communications Act of 1934, which states "No person shall use or operate any apparatus for the transmission of energy or communications or signals by radio upon any vessel or aircraft of the United States without a license."

By the time this reaches you, Radio Free America may be on the air once again as the required adjustments are expected to take about a week to complete. You had best keep a close watch, however, as there is no assurance that Radio Free America will be around for long. Larry Magne reports in FRENDX that reports to Radio Free America, Cape May,N.J, Attn: John Jones, Engineer will be answered so,if you hear it, report it. Good luck!

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