Minneapolis Star Tribune

August 16, 1996

Nice 'Beat', and you can dance to it, but 97.7 FM has no license from FCC

By Kristin Tillotson

The newest radio station in town, 97.7FM The Beat, operates a lot like others around the dial.

It broadcasts regularly (90 hours a week, evenings and weekends). It has a phone number (391-BEAT) and a web site: (http://www.beatworld.com).

What it doesn't have - yet - is a license from the FCC.

Launched about a month ago by local music editor , The Beat is one of dozens of upstart, unlicensed stations around the country. More have been popping up lately as part of a minirevolution in response to the recently passed Telecommunications Act, which, according to critics of the bill, makes it easier for major corporations to buy up stations like cattle, leaving little room on the airwaves for mom-and-pop newcomers.

The Federal Communications Commission calls these new stations pirates of the airwaves, but they see themselves as Robin Hoods with transmitters, giving a little slice of the radio pie back to the people.

Unlike radio anarchists who invade public air space with political agendas, said Freed, "we're like any (licensed) station in terms of presentation and professionalism. The only difference is the commission won't give us a license because we don't have high power."

According to FCC spokesman David Fisk, obtaining a broadcast license involves many factors beyond power. Would-be broadcasters who apply for special consideration are sometimes granted waivers, he said.

But the cost remains prohibitive to anyone lacking deep pockets, said Freed.

Freed, who broadcasts from the Loring Park vicinity, started his station with an investment of a few thousand dollars. The cost of a license application can run more than $10,000, while buying a full-power FM station in the Twin Cities can cost in the neighborhood of $25 million.

The Beat plays mostly up-tempo, feel-good dance tunes spun by some of the Twin Cities' most popular nightclub deejays - including Minnesota Music Award nominee Jezus Juice - who donate their time. In addition to classic, rap and disco favorites not given much airtime elsewhere, the play list is packed with new music and by such local bands as Mint Condition, Greazy Meal and L.E.D.

"Black, white, straight, gay, urban, suburban: We're trying to cover it all," Freed said.

What they can't cover right now is much ground: Low budget means low power (way under 100 watts), and The Beat can be heard only in parts of south Minneapolis and near north Minneapolis: "Uptown to downtown," Freed said.

He said that everyone involved in The Beat has a broadcasting background and that none has a problem with the idea of federal regulation.

"We're not interested in being stupid or irresponsible," he said. "There's just too much power in too few hands."

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