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Monday, March 06, 2006
PRA no more?
For over three years Portland Radio Authority has broadcasted from a secret location somewhere within the metro area. Against the odds it has managed to fly under the radar of the powers that be. Last week the pirate radio station was shut down by an agent from the Federal Communications Commission. The snitches responsible? Possibly the Oregonian and one of its contributors.
On February 27th the Portland daily ran an article about PRA in its "Arts and Entertainment" supplement. In addition to giving a general rundown on the station's programming, its policies and audience, the story also included where it was broadcasting on local FM dials.
On Wednesday afternoon, PRA mysteriously stopped broadcasting over the air and its online feed went dead. An explanation and a subsequent response from the station's manager later that evening on the Portland Independent Media Center let the cat out of the bag: PRA's signal had been shut down after a visit from the FCC.
In the response the manager mentions that he agreed to meet with the Oregonian for an interview under the condition that it not publish the station's home on FM and other details that might lead to an FCC investigation. While the reporter agreed to these terms, the O's article actually included this information.
So now the big question: did someone from the FCC see the article and come calling? On Friday the Oregonian ran a follow-up by the same contributor detailing what happened after Wednesday's visit.
All things considered, this is a pretty callous move on the part of the contributor and the Oregonian's editors. The original article wasn't an in-depth news investigation, it was a "puff piece" in its arts section, not exactly the proper forum for an expose. Perhaps the revelations were a mistake or a result of bad communication between the writer and an editor. Regardless, the article and the indifferent follow-up reek of bad form.
There's a good chance that this carelessness has ended PRA's days of broadcasting in Portland. Regardless of the legal issues, PRA had a devoted cult of listeners, myself included, that enjoyed its eclectic programming. Over the air, PRA's signal didn't interfere with other local stations and, from what I understand, its organizers did what they could to avoid stepping on toes. In a city with too few broadcast outlets for wannabe DJs and local music, it was a welcome alternative to Clear Channel's banal offerings.
So now the role of providing community radio falls further on the shoulders of KPSU's limited AM broadcast range and KBOO, which devotes most of its airtime to programming geared towards an older crowd. Here's hoping the PRA can rally back from this series of unfortunate events and return from the grave, at least on the internet.
UPDATE: Here's Willamette Week's take on the subject.