New York Daily News
June 9, 1998

No More Room For Beat Radio To Dance On The Crowded Dial

By David Hinckley
Daily News Staff Writer

The radio house has been pretty much full for a while. There are some 12,000 stations in the country, so whenever someone new comes in, someone old has to move out.

Yesterday, we noted how happy Radio Unica and Spanish-speaking World Cup fans are that Radio Unica was able to rent WBAH (1660 AM) for the summer so it has a New York outlet to broadcast Cup games, in Spanish, from tomorrow through July 12.

But part of the price is that Beat Radio, a 12-hour-a-day dance music outfit that delighted fans of cutting-edge dance, got kicked off WBAH and now is gone from New York.

The creator of Beat Radio says, in the long run, he might end up back where he started two years ago: as a low-power microbroadcaster.

"Micros" are also known as pirates, because the FCC won't license any station under 100 watts, and that makes them illegal. The National Association of Broadcasters wants them to stay that way, arguing that small stations mess up signals and can become unfairly cheap competition.

Still, the FCC has indicated it will soon look at proposals for some sort of controlled microbroadcasting system.

Alan Freed, who launched Beat Radio (and who, yes, knows the history of his name), says he's "cautiously optimistic" the FCC will approve some kind of microsystem. Not surprisingly, the Minneapolis-based Freed also thinks it's the right thing to do.

"The best argument for micros is made by the big corporations that oppose them," he says. "They won't put something on the air if it won't make money. The kind of dance music we play, WKTU would never program. And that's fine. So let us do it."

It's estimated there are 1,000 U.S. micropower stations, despite stepped-up FCC shutdown efforts.

Most operators argue that low-power stations serve communities, from colleges to ethnic enclaves, unserved by other stations. Many of the micropower stations in New York, for instance, serve Caribbean communities in the Brooklyn area.

To opponents who argue that many micros simply want to get into the game cheap, Freed says there are two "widespread faulty premises about micros: first, that we're all alike, with one agenda, and second, that what you see now is what you would see if micropower were legalized. If that happened, it would be regulated and signal interference, for instance, wouldn't be an issue."

As for Beat Radio, Freed says the deal with WBAH, under which his format ran 12 hours every night, "was never something we aspired to, because we never expected to find that kind of opportunity."

It's been a nice experience, he says - it will run through the summer in other cities - and when it's over, he'll look at the options.

"Our format is dance that's house-based, with some techno, some drum-n-bass, some acid jazz and other genres," he says. "We started as a micro and if we end up as micro, that's all right, too."

[ Daily News 1 | Beat Press main ]