Briefly Noted: A Pirate Road Movie


In 1996 Jeff Pearson attended the Media & Democracy Congress in San Francisco, where he was disappointed to find a lot of "one-way talk…as in they talk, you listen." The only benefit: He met a pirate radio broadcaster, who excited him with the idea that you could fight media consolidation not with numbing conferences but by making some media of your own.

So Pearson and Mary Jones made Pirate Radio U.S.A., an engaging, visually inventive documentary now available on DVD. Shooting it meant crisscrossing the country from Iowa City to Tucson and from Seattle to D.C., encountering people (including me) who had launched unlicensed radio outlets and/or were fighting to make such stations legal. While I don't always agree with the filmmakers' take on the topic, they've done an excellent job of capturing the community's culture and the do-it-yourself ethos that animates it. The film is infectious and fun—everything a lackluster political conference is not.