Lavender Magazine
Issue 69; January 16, 1998 through January 29, 1998


If You Can't Beat 'Em

By Andrew Druckenbrod

If you're stuck in the desert, a small glass of water seems awfully satisfying. This is essentially the case with Minneapolis' Beat Radio 97.7, a low-power FM station that had broadcast alternative dance music until it was rudely shut down more than a year ago by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for operating without a license. Banished to an off-air wasteland for 14 months and counting, operator/head honcho Alan Freed has decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and has temporarily moved Beat Radio's format to a licensed station, KFAI. From 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Monday mornings, KFAI (90.3 FM Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul) now broadcasts "Beat Radio on KFAI," a show featuring the house, techno, drum 'n' bass, acid jazz and disco that had previously been heard on 97.7. It's not much, but beggars can't be choosers.

In the meantime, Freed and his associates are continuing to fight an uphill court battle against the FCC over the constitutionality of the government agency's refusal to license radio stations which operate under 100 watts (Beat Radio operated at 20). While taking on a government agency is a difficult endeavor, Beat Radio may have a chance, since, in a similar case, a California court recently handed down a ruling in favor of Free Radio Berkeley (however, the National Association of Broadcasters has continued to pressure the FCC to crack down on "pirate" stations).

With the loss of KREV 105 and the limited hours of the University of Minnesota's Radio K, the Twin Cities will certainly benefit from the reappearance of cutting edge alternative dance music. But that benefit will only occur if Beat Radio can permanently return to the airwaves--there is little reason for metro electronica fans to jump for joy over a measly three hours of music in the wee hours of Monday morning, even though KFAI's show features the music of several talented local DJs. "It's not really a big deal," concludes DJ Wade Ellars, one of several DJs whose music surfaces on KFAI's Beat Radio show. Ellars, who spins at Club Metro Underground and at Tropix, says he won't get much more exposure with the show since his music has been placed on a five-week rotation. But although the situation is still bleak for Beat Radio, the KFAI show--Freed's glass of water in the midst of a desert--may give it enough sustenance to outlast the FCC and grace local radio dials.

For more information on Beat Radio, e-mail; write to P.O. Box 3333, Minneapolis, MN 55403; or call (612) 391-BEAT.

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