Capitol Hill pirate radio station aims to give back to community, not steal airwaves

Despite its name and the fact that it operates without a license, 101.9 FM The Whore is a Capitol Hill community radio station. DJ Alan does not allow swearing on the station, he writes his own PSAs for local non-profits among other community concerns and his cat, Magic serves as the midday DJ.

And the story behind the name? Alan started the station as a way to get information to his neighbors about a male prostitute who was known for breaking into cars and drug use in Alan’s old neighborhood. 

“Women love it when they find out the station is actually named after a man,” said Alan.

The original station was broadcast on a different frequency and has been defunct for seven years.  The Whore has been operating on Capitol Hill since August 2008 under a new mission focused more on providing positive dance music and PSAs than community warnings about ne’er do-wells. Alan says he wanted to give back to the community by providing a fun dance music station with a community focused message. He writes PSAs for organizations like Lifelong Aids Alliance and also calls attention to the dangers of drunk driving.

“I love the Hill but it’s changing,” Alan said. “It seems like the heart is being ripped out of the neighborhood. […] As the neighborhood changes, we’ve got what I consider to be an unserved community.”

He says his audience is the gay community as well as tech savvy young urban professionals and “trend setters.”

Alan’s goal is for the station to become a “legitimate business” so he can continue to support the community by providing affordable advertising for locally owned businesses but, even if the station does become licensed, he doesn’t plan to boost his broadcasting range too far. He’ll expand just enough to cover the Hill. He says he sees no reason for the station to reach Bellevue, for example. The Whore has been unlicensed so far mostly because of the financial cost, according to Alan who is currently looking for paid work.

Alan started his first pirate radio station (a radio station not licensed with the  on Mercer Island as a child with a passion for music and electronics. As a 10-year-old, he broadcast mostly rock music from his ham radio. He spent eight years with Seattle’s KLSY 92.5 FM and was also the webmaster and art director for the Delilah show, a nationally syndicated radio show based in Seattle.

A screenshot from Spunk FM’s website, which will be live by the end of the month.

 

Alan said he has never been contacted by the FCC about his pirate projects and he claims he isn’t worried. He keeps his broadcasts clean, even editing some songs himself so swear words aren’t heard on the air, and his broadcasts don’t interfere with licensed frequencies, nor is he making a profit from the station, he says.

DJ Alan said he’s seen other pirate radio stations come and go on the Hill, including an anarchist station once housed in the building at Broadway Avenue and John Street where  is located. The DJs often used obscene language and were eventually shut down.

But despite his intentions, Alan’s station is still considered in violation of FCC regulations. The FCC website states: 

The Commission considers unauthorized broadcast operation to be a serious matter. Presently, the maximum penalty for operating an unlicensed or “pirate” broadcast station (one which is not permitted under Part 15 or is not a Carrier Current Station) is set at $10,000 for a single violation or a single day of operation, up to a total maximum amount of $75,000.

Those fines may be lowered depending on circumstances but unlicensed broadcasters still run the risk of having their equipment confiscated. Alan hopes the FCC has seen his posts on online radio message boards saying he does intend to apply for a license. Until then, Alan will continue broadcasting from his Capitol Hill home.

Without financial backing or FCC approval, Alan says it’s the listeners that keep him going… and his best friend, 17-year-old cat DJ Magic who some listeners say “has a perfect radio meow.”

The station is set to change its name to Spunk 101.9 (Inspired by a quote from the Mary Tyler Moore Show) and will begin streaming online at spunkfm.com this month.

8 thoughts on “Capitol Hill pirate radio station aims to give back to community, not steal airwaves

  1. Wow. Now that this guy has gone “public”, expect him to get shut down, and to attract enforcement action on anyone else that has any ideas! There are at least two people in the industry that LOVES to turn people in to the FCC, and now that they can see it from the freaking internet, I don’t expect this guy to stay on for more then 2 weeks.

    I could never figure out why people who put pirates on the air seek publicity beyond their community, and think that casting such a wide net is a substitute for building community listener by listener, word of mouth. Anyone remember when FSR was up? They were cool, until they got that picture on the cover of the Seattle Weekly. The the FCC came a knocking.

  2. Better still, change the regs so he can LEGALLY brodcast on one of those “in between” numbers (i.e. 101.8, 101.6) The technology exists, let’s put it to use.

  3. We’re not millionaires. We can’t change the laws. Only the telecomm industry can afford to pay off the politicians to change the laws. What country are you living in? How silly that you think we live in a democracy. How about we shut YOUR ignorant ass down?

  4. Back to your corner. Tommy has the right idea, while it may be extremely idealistic. But at least it’s an idea and that’s how these things start. Remember the 4th of July fireworks? So don’t be such a negative Nancy.

    Ready, open fire on me next.

  5. “Better still, change the regs so he can LEGALLY brodcast on one of those “in between” numbers (i.e. 101.8, 101.6)”

    Like Clearchannel would ever let that happen.

  6. Clear Channel my ass. Thank liberal schmiberal NPR, which convinced the FCC to force low power class D stations off the air to make room for “translator” transmitters, so you can listen to “All Things Considered” anywhere, whether you want to or not.

  7. Don’t buy the FCC’s BS about part 15. It does not apply to broadcast stations, licensed or not. Part 73 is the applicable regulatory section. For years, the FCC has been waving the part 15 flag over unlicensed, Free Radio stations. A false flag for certain. For the details, please go to this link – http://www.diymedia.net/feature/micro/f041798.htm – to read a paper I wrote quite some time ago. And, remember to tell the FCC to kiss your Bill Rights!