Miami pirate radio Haiti courtesy of the Miami Herald
courtesy of the Miami Herald

Some of the best Caribbean radio stations in Miami aren’t technically legal. They’re pirate radio stations that operate without Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licenses and exist in frequencies between the legal ones. They are also where many Miami people discover great music outside the confines of the corporate pop radio complex.

Fabrice Polynice, aka DJ Paz, founder of Radio Touche Douce
Fabrice Polynice, aka DJ Paz, founder of Radio Touche Douce

One of the most well-known and beloved is Radio Touche Douce, a 24 year old station that broadcasts in both English and Haitian-Creole. The FCC has just proposed the maximum fine, $144,344, on the station and Fabrice Polynice, aka DJ Paz, for allegedly illegally broadcasting from his North Miami backyard.

“There’s nothing funny about pirate radio, which interferes with the lawful use of the airwaves and can disrupt public safety communications,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement announcing the fine against the Haitian music station. Presumably then he let out an evil laugh and mumbled something about destroying music forever.

The station had been filling a void in Miami radio where konpa, soca, and dancehall music originating from the Caribbean had been missing, or had only been played after being filtered through a mainstream artist. Many local artists in the community relied on the station to promote their material.

However, in addressing the alleged illegal radio antenna, FCC Enforcement Chief Rosemary Harold wondered why the station didn’t just confine itself to internet streaming broadcasts, which don’t require FCC licenses.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

“We need it,” Wilky “Kikko” Saint-Hilaire, a songwriter for several konpa musicians told “This was probably the only station that played our music genre, konpa, exclusively on a daily basis.” However, he did go on to note that the FCC’s actions were understandable. Although, the magnitude seems excessive.

The potential audience out there on internet radio is still just emerging. Part of the reason why terrestrial radio is still popular is that it is still more reliable, especially over local and short-distances (although granted, that’s also why it’s still widely used in official and emergency communication).

It’s sad though to see that Radio Touche Douce might be forced to close because of the FCC fine, for both fans of that station and fans of music as a whole. Hopefully, people move to streaming radio quickly, where we can be free of the shackles of the FCC.

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