Beat Radio

Beat Radio 97.7 - How Beat Radio Began

First, we'd like to thank everyone who supported us while we were on the air and while we were in court with the FCC!

Beat Radio made its debut in Minneapolis as a nonlicensed low-power FM station playing dance and club music at 97.7 FM on July 21, 1996. The Federal Communications Commission silenced Beat Radio on November 1, 1996, by taking a transmitter & other equipment - no arrests or fines - and Beat Radio defended itself for over four years in Federal Court against the FCC over the agency's action.

The Story

In February, 1999, we won an appeal before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals over where a trial about the FCC's action should be held. This appeal arose from a 1997 ruling favorable to the government by U.S. District Judge Michael Davis in Minneapolis. In our successful appeal, a three-judge panel of the court agreed with Beat Radio that a trial should be held in Minnesota, and not Washington, D.C., as the government argued. The U.S. Department of Justice, representing the FCC, then asked the full court for a review of that decision, hoping for a reversal. However, the full court declined the government's wish for a reversal of the ruling in our favor, and instead directed the same three-judge panel to reconsider the jurisdiction issue. Keep in mind that these were technical legal issues and not the core issues of the case, which were based on our claim for the return of the equipment and the scope of defense arguments we could raise at trial.

In March, 2000, the panel reversed itself in the government's favor. In May, 2000, Beat Radio filed an appeal with the full 8th Circuit Court over the panel's new opinion. The full court declined the review by a slim Beat Radio filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in October, 2000. To our dismay, but not surprisingly - since the High Court accepts only 1-2% of cases submitted to it - the Supremes did not take the case.

Ironically, as the FCC continued to fight Beat Radio and other, similar, low-power stations across the country in court, the agency established a new low-power FM service in January, 2000, and now many low-power stations are on the air, largely because of stations like Beat Radio who forced the issue of access to the airwaves. Then-FCC Chairman William Kennard, shortly after leaving the FCC in early 2001, acknowledged the fact that unlicensed stations were a catalyst for the new "LPFM" tier.

However, the FCC's LPFM initiative met with fierce resistance; the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), National Public Radio (NPR) and other special-interest groups lobbied Congress to pass a law to completely kill the new LPFM service. While these organizations claimed they were resisting LPFM on technical grounds in the interest of the public to prevent and limit signal interference between stations, the truth was they were protecting their own interests and had the gall to present blatant lies to members of Congress in their sleazy campaign to kill LPFM entirely. The House passed an anti-LPFM bill in April 2000 and the Senate at one time had three anti-LPFM bills before it, including one by Minnesota's own pride & joy, ex-Sen. Rod Grams (R). The Grams bill was attached as a rider to the Omnibus Budget Act passed by the "lame-duck" Congress in mid-December, 2000, despite hard-fought efforts to prevent it (then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, among others, repelled those fighting the "good fight") and it was reluctantly signed by President Clinton. Fortunately, these strange bedfellows didn't succeed in offing LPFM entirely, but unfortunately, they were successful in getting Congress to limit the number of low-power stations that can be licensed and adding a number of further unnecessary restrictions. Senator Grams was quickly forgotten by his NAB masters and, in a fitting example of karma, was defeated in his re-election bid in 2000. And we all know what fine karma caught up with Sen. Lott in December, 2002, over his comments about the late Sen. Strom Thurmond. (We find it inconsistent that, after playing a large role in neutering LPFM, Lott now is concerned about media control and is opposing the FCC's June 2003 decision (which remains under challenge in 2007 in Federal Court) to further relax big media ownership. Go figure.)

We encourage you to contact your elected federal representatives in support of citizen access to the airwaves and the national low-power FM service, approved January 20, 2000. It continues to face opposition under false pretenses by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and National Public Radio (NPR), among others. Additionally, we encourage you to express your opinion about the radio ownership consolidation allowed by the Telecom Act of 1996 and about the greater media control and consolidation (TV and newspapers) which the FCC approved in June 2003 - which we think is an alarming, ludicrous idea. (A copy to Beat Radio would be appreciated.)

  • Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area federal representatives:

    Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) (Sen. Klobuchar took office in 2007 and was not in office at the time of the vote on the LPFM bill)
    1200 Washington Avenue South, Suite 250
    Minneapolis MN 55415
    email: or via this page

    Senator Tina Smith (D) (Sen. Smith took office in 2018 and was not in office at the time of the vote on the LPFM bill)
    60 Plato Blvd, Suite 220
    St. Paul MN 55107
    email: or via this page

    Rep. Ilhan Omar (D), 5th District [Beat Radio's district] (Rep. Omar took office in 2019 and was not in office at the time of the vote on the LPFM bill)
    310 E. 38th Street, Suite 222
    Minneapolis MN 55409
    email: via this page

    Rep. Betty McCollum (D), 4th District (Rep. McCollum took office in 2001 and was not in office at the time of the vote on the LPFM bill)
    661 LaSalle Street, Suite 110
    St. Paul MN 55114
    email: via this page

    Rep. Dean Phillips (D), 3rd District (Rep. Phillips took office in 2019 and was not in office at the time of the vote on the LPFM bill)
    13911 Ridgedale Drive, Suite 200
    Minnetonka MN 55305
    email: via this page

    Rep. Angie Craig (D), 2nd District (Rep. Craig took office in 2019 and was not in office at the time of the vote on the LPFM bill)
    12940 Harriet Avenue South, Suite 238
    Burnsville MN 55337
    email: via this page

    Rep. Tom Emmer (R), 6th District, a former radio talk show host (Rep. Emmer took office in 2015 and was not in office at the time of the vote on the LPFM bill)
    9201 Quaday Avenue NE, Suite 206
    Otsego MN 55330
    email: via this page

    Of the representatives in office at the time of the (anti-)LPFM bill vote, only then-5th District Rep. Martin Olav Sabo voted against it (that is, in favor of LPFM); all others bowed to the hyperbole of the NAB, NPR and Minnesota Broadcasters Association (MBA) and voted against citizen access to the airwaves and for maintaining the status quo of corporate domination of our airwaves. (Interference is not a threat to existing stations and the NAB "example" CD demo of purported LPFM interference that was circulated to lawmakers and others in late 2000 as a scare tactic to show what a terrible thing LPFM is, is an amazingly brazen lie. We heard it. But it's not nearly the first time the NAB has lied about LPFM and other issues.)

    The rest of the delegation at the time of the (anti-)LPFM vote:

    Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R), 1st District

    Rep. Jim Oberstar (D), 8th District

    Rep. Collin Peterson (D), 7th District

  • find your representatives here

    Meanwhile, Beat Radio continues its community interaction at key Minneapolis nightclubs and throughout the city.

    Beat Radio thanks you for your continued support and interest. We're not going anywhere!

    Stay tuned.

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