Dan Morris vividly recalls how he felt the moment investigators from the nation’s broadcasting watchdog walked into his West Wollongong home on February 29 armed with a search warrant.
“I felt violated, intruded upon; it was horrible,” he said.
“I acknowledge [what I did] was against the law, but it wasn’t wrong.
“I feel a bit like the little bug being squashed.”
The Australian Communications and Media Authority was at Morris’ house for one reason that day: to shut down his unlicensed “pirate” radio station, IRIE FM.
Morris, a self-described ‘Rastafarian’ frustrated no licensed stations were playing his beloved reggae, had purchased a specialised transmitter and began broadcasting on the FM frequency daily.
He’s unsure of the exact number of listeners he had, but believes there were about 800 regulars. The IRIE FM Facebook page has 580 likes.
As Morris’ reach grew, so too did his popularity, and in January he was interviewed for Vice.com in an article, titled ‘Meet Australia’s Preeminent Jamaican Pirate Radio Broadcaster’. It proved to be his undoing, after the ACMA saw it and investigated.
Officials managed to trace the transmission to Morris’ street, before pinpointing its origin by the sizeable antenna on the roof.
The raid took place quickly and Morris was charged with possessing and operating radiocommunications devices without a licence. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of two years jail and/or a $165,000 fine.
In court on Thursday, Morris said he’d “naively” gone into the venture as “something to do after work”.
He said he’d investigated obtaining a licence after the raid, but ACMA had told him it would not be issuing more licences or altering those in existence.
Magistrate Michael Stoddart fined Morris a total of $3,000 and ordered the transmitter be forfeited.
Outside court, Morris said he’d initially tried to go through the proper channels to make his music public.
“Before all this I applied for membership at Vox FM. I waited the compulsory three months to do the [operator] training but they never got back to me and when I called them they said it was too late and I’d have to reapply,” he said.
“They don’t have a hip hop show, they don’t have a reggae show...they don’t represent all the local community.”