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Access to the Airwaves:
My Fight for Free Radio by Allan H. Weiner as told to Anita Louise McCormick
REVIEWED BY JERRY BERG
From Antique Radio Classified
(Copyright 1997 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)
As most any weekend check of 6955 kHz will show, U.S. pirate radio is alive and well. Unlike the European pirates, whose operations resulted at least in part from government monopolies that foreclosed development of a private broadcasting industry, pirate radio in the United States has basically been kids playing radio.
Allan Weiner is one of the older kids, having put a number of well-known pirate operations on the air over his 45 years. These operations include, arguably, the most famous of them all -- Radio New York International (RNI), which, in 1987, broadcast from a ship off the east coast, drawing the attention of much of the national media in the process.
The details of Weiner's pirate operations are the best part of this book, which is otherwise a chronological account of Weiner's personal life, with an emphasis on his pirate radio activities. As Weiner puts it, "My story is one of a lifelong fascination with the art and science of communicating by means of radiant energy transmitted through space in the form of radio waves." However, he also observes, "If there's anything I don't like in my life, it's being told what to do." Therein is the heart of the problem that has put him at odds with the FCC over the years.
Whatever one might think of pirate broadcasting, Weiner's commitment to it certainly is genuine. He put his first station on the air when he was fifteen, and one cannot read the accounts of his many subsequent efforts, including the outfitting of the M/V Sarah (home of RNI), without being impressed by his intelligence and industry.
Indeed, Weiner's considerable skill in turning junk into radio stations has permitted him to earn his living in the broadcasting industry, both as engineer and station owner. His energy and enthusiasm continue unabated, for, while not described in the book, it is well known that he has assisted in outfitting another radio ship, the Electra, soon to depart Boston for an unknown Caribbean destination.
At least some of Weiner's prior trespasses appear to have been forgiven. Recently, the FCC granted him a construction permit for a 50,000-watt shortwave station on his farm in Monticello, Maine, with call letters WBCQ. He hopes to have the station on the air by late summer/early fall.
There are some serious topics in pirate-related broadcasting, including the inherent constraints on the little guy from the high cost of licensed broadcasting, the feasibility of a hobby broadcasting band, and FCC enforcement policy toward pirate broadcasters (pretty lax of late). Unfortunately, these subjects are not dealt with in any analytical way in this book. Neither is Weiner's basic argument that FCC licensing policies have abridged his free speech and personal liberties. However, if you are interested just in knowing a little more about one of the longer running David and Goliath tales of pirate broadcasting, this book will give you Weiner's side of the story.
Access to the Airwaves: My Fight for Free Radio by Allan H Weiner, as told to Anita Louise McCormick, is available in soft cover, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" format, at $17.95, plus $4.95 shipping and handling. You may order it from the publisher, Loompanics Unlimited, P.O. Box 1197, Port Townsend, WA 98368. Visa and MasterCard are accepted by mail and by phone. 1-(800)-380-2230.
(Jerry Berg, 38 Eastern Ave., Lexington, MA 02173. firstname.lastname@example.org)