The Fury was the second ship that was planned
to be used by Allan Weiner, who'd
previously run Radio NewYork International. The group are now involved with
their latest ship Electra.
Press Release: Billboard Magazine, 17th August 1996.
Broadcasting Pirates Set Sail Aboard Radio Ship Electra
By Dee McVicker.
Allan Weiner and Scott Becker of pirate radio fame are waiting for their ship to come in. Again.
This time, however, they hope that when their seafaring radio ship finally arrives, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will let it set sail.
In the almost 10 years that Weiner and Becker have dreamed of pulling anchor on a floating broadcast vessel, two shortwave ships have landed them in trouble with the broadcast regulatory agency.
The Sarah, which Weiner anchored several miles off Long Island, N.Y., in 1987 was too close to shore for the FCC's comfort, and the Fury, a vessel that Weiner and Becker had hoped would ride the high seas of offshore broadcasting starting in 1994, never even left the harbor.
Things will be different, they hope, when their new ship - the Electra, named after radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi's radio ship of the '20s - leaves its U.S. port later this summer.
Providing it doesn't create waves with the FCC first, the Electra will broadcast a 25 kilowatt AM signal and two 50kW shortwave signals offshore near France or Israel or in the Caribbean. Depending on where the Electra is anchored at the time, it will broadcast shortwave anywhere from the top of the 160 meter band to the bottom of the 40 meter band on commercial frequencies and at the lower or upper end of the AM band. The broadcasts will cause no interference to land-lubbing or seafaring broadcasters, according to Weiner.
In addition to launching the Electra, the two radio pirates, as they are often described, have a new mission: to bring old-time radio shows, environmental news, and environmental programming to people around the world. One 50kW shortwave will broadcast old-time radio shows around the clock via a "Yesterday USA" satellite feed. The programming is a service of public domain old-time radio shows and vintage music provided by the National Museum of Communications, a nonprofit broadcast museum based in Dallas. "Yesterday USA" is available on satellite, cable, and the Internet.
The Electra's second 50kW shortwave signal and its 25kW AM signal will broadcast environmental programming and reports, some from a studio on board, while blocks of air time will be available for lease to programming parties.
Lightwave Mission Broadcasting, the company formed by Weiner and Becker to launch the ship, will offer membership opportunities to those who wish to help fund the venture. At least one environmental organization has agreed to underwrite the costs, according to Becker and about $250,000 has been sunk into the ship to make it seaworthy.
The oceangoing tugboat's hull has been reinforced for maneuverability in the Antarctic, should the Electra venture there. An aerial mast more than 100 feet tall is being installed, and generators will provide power offshore as needed. The Electra is expected to sail late this summer.
"The world needs one free and open, operating, floating radio station that can go to a hot spot anywhere, broadcast a message, tell a story, and satisfy a lot of different needs out there," says Weiner.
The FCC doesn't necessarily agree. According to Richard Swanson of the FCC International Bureau, satellite and radio communications division, a ship broadcasting in international waters is in violation of a treaty set forth by the International Telecommunications Union, a coalition of 200 member countries, including the U.S.
"The international radio regulations prohibit any broadcasting from a ship," Swanson says.
Between them, Weiner and Becker have had more experience with the FCC and radio ships than anyone in the U.S., according to Christopher Edwards, publisher of Offshore Echo's, a European periodical read by broadcast hobbyists.
Edwards has covered the radioship capers of Weiner and Becker for the past 10 years and says they have dogged determination to set an offshore radio vessel in water. Edwards knows of only two such vessels operating in the world today; both are located near Israel and have political intentions.
Weiner, who helped with the now-docked U.K. radio ship Radio Caroline, is perhaps best known for his ship the Sarah.
The vessel operated for four days in 1987 before the FCC shut it down. Weiner tried to broadcast from the ship again in 1988, but, he says, the government got a restraining order against the ship and its operators.
Later, the Sarah's broadcast equipment was dismantled, and the ship was sold to MGM studios as a movie prop.
The Fury, which Weiner and Becker built years later, met with a similar demise on Jan. 19, 1994, when FCC authorities boarded the ship and confiscated broadcast equipment. Becker, Weiner, and staff were not charged with a crime.
Becker claims that the FCC "got us right in the harbor with trumped-up charges that we were broadcasting on the ship, which is absolutely 100% false."
Weiner and Becker, both broadcasters by trade - Weiner holds a license for television station KDE - TV 36 Kiowa, Kan., and Becker has held licenses for several stations and is now an engineer for WEGP-AM Presque Isle, Maine - say they are smarter about the radio-ship business the third time around.
For example, their new oceangoing tugboat-turned-radio-ship will be licensed to host countries, which Weiner and Becker claim will offer protection from the FCC.
"The Electra will be operating within the territorial jurisdiction of a host country, which will give it all the legal protection that it needs, and it will not violate any treaties or any regulations," Weiner says.
The two say they are negotiating with broadcast authorities in France, Israel, and Caribbean countries for broadcast licenses.
In addition, the ship will not broadcast, while in U.S. waters and will be monitored by an independent agency to demonstrate such, should the FCC say otherwise. Weiner says he understands that "when the ship is in port, it's under FCC rules and regulations. It can't transmit without a license."
Moreover, says Beeker, "we have 110% control of what's going to happen to this ship this time. Allan H. Weiner and Scott Becker have 100% maneuverability on this ship."
Both Becker and Weiner believe that had they not turned the Fury over to the almost exclusive control of a religious ministry, they would not have courted the wrath of the FCC.
Unlike the Electra, which will be privately funded by several parties, the Fury was predominantly funded by R. Stair's Overcomer Ministry of Walterboro, S.C., whose philosophies often clashed with those of the Fury's shipmates and, in Becker's and Weiner's estimation, those of the FCC.
"I want to make clear that this ship is not a political platform [or] a religious platform," Becker says of the Electra. "As far as the organizers, Allan and myself and Lightwave Mission Broadcasting, we are neither left nor right. What we want to do is attract programmers from all walks of life."
Billboard magazine 17 August 1996