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Liberation Radio Points Its Antenna Our Way
By Erin O'Briant
A house on a hill in the Castro is now broadcasting Liberation to the residents of Noe Valley.
For those not yet in the know, that's San Francisco Liberation Radio at 93.7 FM. The "micro" (100-watt) station is already a San Francisco underground favorite, but until the volunteer producers moved their transmitter to the Castro, the left-leaning, non-commercial station mostly reached residents of the Sunset, Richmond, and Parkside districts.
Liberation Radio began broadcasting from its new home in May, and has been offering free-thinking radio to listeners in the eastern part of San Francisco ever since.
So how did a nine-year-old Sunset District radio station end up broadcasting in Noe Valley?
According to Valencia Street resident Sarah Olson, who is Liberation Radio's musical director, former station host Richard Edmondson had devoted most of his home to the station for eight years. He was ready to move the transmitter at the same time two residents of the Castro became interested in starting a radio station.
Karoline Hatch says it was her idea that the station should move to her parents' home. Hatch, who hosts Liberation's "Little Sister Show" on Sunday evenings, had just returned from studying at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she participated in a micro radio station. "When I came back, I was talking to my parents about pirate radio, and I mentioned that their house would be an excellent place to have a radio station," she says.
Meanwhile, her parents -- who prefer to go by their aliases, Junior Sierra and Carmen LaSalle -- were increasingly frustrated with mainstream media's news coverage. "We cancelled all of our newspapers because all the news we were getting was really bad -- bombing tiny countries that didn't have an army or an air force," says Sierra. "We thought, What can we do?" They considered starting their own station, but decided to host Liberation Radio instead.
It seems having a radio station downstairs is no problem for Sierra and LaSalle. Their house has a basement with a separate entrance that serves as studio space. The transmitter is kept in the house itself, and the antenna is on the roof. "We enjoy it," Sierra says. "We listen to [the station] a lot now. It's good programming."
Because the Hatch home is on a hill and because that hill is situated east of Twin Peaks (and midway between Eureka Valley and Noe Valley), Liberation Radio reaches a much larger audience than before.
"I have no idea how many listeners we have," Olson admits. Still, she says the station has received lots of calls and e-mails since it began broadcasting from the new location on May 11. "We've gotten calls from people in the Mission, the Castro, Noe Valley, BayviewHunters Point, downtown, and even Berkeley and Alameda. And I haven't heard anything that's not positive."
The station airs daily from 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Offerings include political commentary, news, music, poetry, and combinations thereof. Tune in one evening after work and you might catch anything from local writers reading their latest work to a deejay spinning blues or folk.
Olson and the other volunteers don't donate their time just for entertainment, though. "I want to emphasize the political nature of being a micro radio station," Olson says. "The reason I do micro radio is I feel that there's this completely void media wasteland that exists, and it's all piped-in music with very little news, very little of anything of substance."
There's plenty of substance available at Liberation Radio. "We have something like 40 different deejays, and each is a programmer and creates his or her own show," Olson explains.
And simply airing the programs is an act of civil disobedience. Liberation Radio is not registered with the Federal Communications Commission due to the FCC's restrictive requirements for small radio stations. Liberation Radio shut down in 1998 after a court order against a sister station in the East Bay, but resumed broadcasting several months later--even though the station has since received a notice of noncompliance.
For now, though, Liberation Radio will remain on the airwaves. And the station will continue to try to expand its audience. "We're trying to get an omnidirectional antenna, instead of one that points in just one direction," Olson says.
Meanwhile, the producers would love to hear from Noe Valley listeners. "We're here and we're part of the community," Olson notes. "We're definitely looking for community input."
You can visit Liberation Radio's web site at www.liberationradio.net or call the station at 415-648-9222.