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Pirates take over small-town radio signal

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Residents of San Mateo County, California are hearing an unusual sound on the 89.3 frequency of their FM radios these days. Commercial-free radio programmed by real, local people.

San Francisco-based Pirate Cat Radio has put KPDO on the air full-time. The station’s new home, nestled among coastal farmlands, is about an hour south from the studio cafe in San Francisco’s Mission District.

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Pirate Cat Radio founder Daniel Roberts and his crew took over the radio frequency May 8, after years of defying the Federal Communications Commission by broadcasting without a license. Roberts was recently fined by the FCC for just that, as Jennifer Waits writes in Spinning Indie.

So, faced with staying off the air for good, Roberts – also known as Monkey – worked out an agreement with Pescadero Radio Service to operate the unused frequency and began training locals to host their own shows. News stories about Pescadero, like the investigation uncovering two labor camps in rural Pescadero where families have been drinking unhealthy levels of nitrate-contaminated water for years, will make their way to the radio airwaves for the first time.

KPDO’s license was going to disappear, Roberts told The Daily Journal, until he brought an engineer in to resurrect the station. Local residents have very little else to turn to for locally-originated content on the radio. Waits writes:

Daniel was dismissive when I asked him about KLSI, saying that the station is run by a guy from out of town and that it’s “basically a jukebox from Florida.” Daniel said that the owner of KLSI runs a bunch of radio stations and that he’s not connected with the local community and added, “Scum of the earth are people who treat radio like real estate.” I told Daniel that I’d heard that UC Santa Cruz had been helping out with KPDO about a year ago and asked him what happened. He said that UC Santa Cruz had made an offer to purchase the station, but that the owner of KLSI contested that purchase. Apparently because of the related legal fees, UC Santa Cruz pulled out, leaving the future of KPDO uncertain. I asked Daniel why KLSI wasn’t taking issue with his takeover of KPDO and he said that it’s because he’s just running the station and the license isn’t being transferred.

Roberts will continue to manage the Pirate Cat Radio cafe 50 miles north.

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