Broadcasting Live From ... the Basement

By Giselle Velazquez, Pop and Politics

Geography was destiny for Karoline Hatch.

"My parents live on top of the hill in [San Francisco's] the Castro, and they have an amazing view," explains Hatch. "One time I was over at their house and I thought, this would be a great place for a radio station..." Years of lawsuits, protests, busted doors, and one FCC raid later, San Francisco Liberation Radio is still coming out live from the Hatch family basement. In an era where radio behemoths like Clear Channel and Infinity rule the airwaves, pirate station Liberation Radio has struggled since 1993 to broadcast news, music, community information, and more to its local listeners. The station was founded by a small group of people deeply unsatisfied with mainstream coverage of issues such as the Gulf War and the treatment of the homeless in San Francisco. Twice denied the exceedingly difficult-to-obtain license the Federal Communications Commission deems necessary for low-power community radio stations to legally operate, Liberation Radio defiantly stayed on the airwaves and continued to broadcast. Like other microradio stations which operate illegally, the station has frequently incurred the wrath of the FCC, which tightly controls the public airwaves.