Pirate Flagship Plays On In Face Ofcom Salvo

National News (Saturday January 31, 2004 The Guardian)
Pirate flagship plays on in face of Ofcom salvo
'Music Master' says black station gives voice to community
local stations," said the Music Master, aka 57-year-old drummer, music promoter and entrepreneur Cecil Morris. "We give people who have no voice a means of expressing what they are feeling. For us it's all about freedom of speech. It is our human right to be heard." Morris began broadcasting in 1985 during the Handsworth riots in an attempt to calm tension.
 After the disturbances he kept the believing the black population in Birmingham was ill-served by local BBC and commercial stations. He says PCRL attempted to present news about world issues
   without a white, western bias. He says phone-ins gave local people the chance to talk openly about the issues closest to e station going, hem. And, of course, it played music not to be found at the top of its mainstream rivals' playlists.
 PCRL became the station of choice for many black people, especially in areas such as Handsworth and Winson Green. Morris claims an audience of 250,000, and says that, depending on the weather, the station can be heard up to 50 miles away.
 PCRL organised trips for the elderly and youngsters, and music events at local clubs. It worked alongside training agencies to try to help young

Cecil Morris and phone-in presenter Anthony Jeffers

Photograph: Anita Maric/News Team
finance and operate the station.   The prosecution claimed the broadcasts interfered with the emergency services. On one occasion, the court was told, the broadcast "swamped" the fire service's communications system. William Rickarby, prosecuting, also claimed illegal broadcasters deprived performers of royalties, and the Treasury of taxes. Addressing Morris after he was convicted, Judge Orme accepted he had done much to help disadvantaged black youngsters.  But he gave him a nine-month jail sentence suspended for two years and warned him that he would be "amazed" if he was not imprisoned if he were caught working on the station again. Morris was also told to pay a fine and costs of £8,000. Jeffers, 43, and Norton, 52, who were also convicted on conspiracy charges, were ordered to do a total of 320 hours community service and pay costs of £5,000. Ofcom was pleased.
 Clive Corrie, special investigations manager, said they had focused in the past on getting stations off air by tracking and confiscating transmitters or raiding studios. Now more effort was being put into hitting the brains behind the operations.
 He rejected the argument that stations such as PCRL served their communities well: "The damage they do outweighs the good." Because they were illegitimate, the pirates were able to broadcast unchecked radical political views and bad language.
 There is sympathy for the Music Master and PCRL in Birmingham. Mr Bashford said: "They give a voice to people who do not have a voice." Beenie Brown, of the African Caribbean Self Help Organisation in Handsworth, said: "These stations aren't going to go away. They do a good job and have support."
 This week the Music Master and Pilot were still to be found in PCRL's old office. They say they will stay away from the station but cannot hide their pleasure that their stereo is blasting out PCRL. When asked who was keeping the station going, Morris shrugged. "The station is not just me or Pilot. We have been forced to stop but the community will keep it going."

people get jobs. Morris became, as Judge Robert Orme acknowledged during his trial this month, a cornerstone of the black community. The station tried to turn legitimate and obtain a licence but was repeatedly turned down.
 Morris believes he failed because the station was challenging the establishment. Its lack of financial muscle to compete with larger operators also hindered it. Over the years PCRL, which was run from a small suite of rooms above what is now a specialist black bookshop in Winson Green, was targeted time
and again.
 After one raid a vicar, the Rev Richard Bashford, gave the station temporary "sanctuary" by allowing it to broadcast from his church. Soon, however, the station was back in its natural milieu, setting up makeshift studios in cramped flats with transmitters on top of tower blocks. Earlier this month Morris, Anthony Jeffers - better known to PCRL's listeners as the phone-in presenter Pilot - and Michael Norton, who worked on the station's website, found themselves in the dock at Birmingham crown court charged with conspiring to manage,
'For us it's all about freedom of speech. It's our right to be heard'
The damage they do outweighs the good
home page: pcrlfm.co.uk

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