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Microbroadcasting Summer Camp 272

Posted by michael
from the fight-the-man dept.
ScottGant writes "Wired has this story about Steven Dunifer and his four-day Radio Summer Camps sponsored by Free Radio Berkeley that offers how-tos for building transmitters and antennas, along with advice on handling any FCC agents that might come knocking. Imagine this: A thousand little stations send radio programming across cities and towns from senior centers, dorm rooms and attics. The understaffed FCC would be powerless to shut them down. Audiences would have substantive content choices. No one would tune into Top-40 radio. And the media moguls would slink back into their caves. The FCC and Big Radio are obviously paying attention to the microbroadcasters -- it was pressure from independent broadcasters that forced the FCC to grant a limited number of low-power, or LPFM, radio licenses to community organizations, a decision that the NAB resisted. Are these Pirates or Patriots?"
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Microbroadcasting Summer Camp

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  • MicroBroadcasters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mpost4 (115369) * on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:29PM (#9087247) Homepage Journal
    I know this will not be popular, but there is a reason for the FCC to be around and to control the spectrum. Think about it, if the FCC did not exist I could drive around with a 2kilowatt spread spectrum transmitter on 2.4Ghz, good by WiFi, or I could jam all cell phones anywhere. The FCC may not be perfect but we need it. Also with these vandals (yes I use the word vandals) it would be nice if they were low power and such, but they get their kicks from broadcasting over another station. That is one reason for the FCC to protect peoples right to their freq. If one wants something on the air there is always the public access stations. Or you could do a net stream, there are many other options, the FCC is not there just to hurt the little guy, they are there to protect the bands, they are not always good at it, and they make mistakes
    • Re:MicroBroadcasters (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MisterJones (751585) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:35PM (#9087309)
      I agree. Aren't these microbroadcasters on the same level as spammers? By broadcasting whatever they please over top of the expected/indended brodcasts, they interfere with the regular reception on my radio. Maybe I don't want to listen to their band's demo tape for 60 hours in a row. What if I prefer 'top-40' drivel?

      Does the fact that larger radio stations are owned by a company and have a license make them evil?

      • Re:MicroBroadcasters (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hackman (18896) <bretthall AT ieee DOT org> on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:00PM (#9087635) Homepage
        It doesn't make the larger radio stations evil directly, they ended up that way because they are under control of a very few companies. (Basically 2 to my knowledge).

        They are trying to gain some audience so they can change the way the FCC operations, the fact that significant resources beyond the technical gear is required to communicate over the airwaves could be interpreted as limiting freedom of speech.

        I'm not saying it should be wide open to anyone, it certainly needs some regulation. I'm saying the existing restrictions on frequency use have gone beyond just protecting the frequences and moved into the realm of monopoly-like power over a critical resource.
        • I'm not saying it should be wide open to anyone, it certainly needs some regulation. I'm saying the existing restrictions on frequency use have gone beyond just protecting the frequences and moved into the realm of monopoly-like power over a critical resource.

          In this I think I have to agree. After all, if these "microbroadcasters" want to be heard at the power levels they want to use, to cover lets say a square mile of college campus, they're not going to be running more than 2 or 3 watts, and they are g
      • Does the fact that larger radio stations are owned by a company and have a license make them evil?
        Well the fact that they are all owned by A company (well maybe 2 companies) shows that the FCC isn't doing such a good job of doling out this limited resource. This is a democracy, and yet we don't get a full spectrum of voices on the air - this is a real problem.
      • Re:MicroBroadcasters (Score:5, Informative)

        by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:12PM (#9087785) Homepage Journal
        Well, one of the rules of microbroadcasting is that you're not supposed to use a channel occupied by, or within .3 MHz of, an existing station.

        And it's more than just gentleman's advice...if you try to piggyback your local 50,000W clearchannel station with your 10W community station, you will never be heard, not even in your own house. Your radio will ignore your broadcast as static.

        When I do "pirate" broadcasts, I generally use a piece of the spectrum in between our local NPR station and a "dance party" college radio station. Both are low powered, relatively, so I get a good signal. I can broadcast almost all the way down the street! It was a lot more useful in college...where a good, low-powered-but-legal signal could reach the 9000 students or whatever in the dorms.
        • Isn't that fair. It's there for a good reason, but it's why in my area FM transmitters are useless.

          I live on the plains (rolling hills) near a major city. There is basically no static on my radio dial. Everywhere I tune with my car radio, I can either hear a clear station, or a static with a station under it. The radio dial is FULL. 91.1 (for an example) has a station, 91.3 is free. 91.5 has a station, 91.7 is free. It's like this for nearly the entire band. Some stations (local 100,000 watt powerhouses) m

      • Re:MicroBroadcasters (Score:4, Informative)

        by pjrc (134994) <paul@pjrc.com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:12PM (#9087787) Homepage Journal
        I agree. Aren't these microbroadcasters on the same level as spammers?

        No. Well, not usually.

        By broadcasting whatever they please over top of the expected/indended brodcasts, they interfere with the regular reception on my radio.

        Like many other's posting today, you're stuck in the paradigm that microbroadcasters are going to intentionally broadcast "on top" of some already in-use band... and that if it weren't for the FCC's enforcement of the licensed allocation the FM and AM bands would be utter chaos. I've got some news for you...

        Broadcasting in the same band as an established station with a strong signal isn't going to get you any significant coverage or audience (no matter how compelling your program material may be). A low power transmitter's field strength is going to be overwhelmed after only a short distance if there's a powerful transmitter within the same city... especially if it has the tremendous advantage of transmitting from a tower on top of a hill. This is especially true for FM, where the radio will track the higher amplitude frequency and effectively ignore your smaller signal. Even on AM, where you have a chance of superimposing your audio, it doesn't take much signal from the strong source before your voice/music is not intelligable.

        Low power radio transmission also doesn't reach enough people to be effecive at selling the scams and questionable products that most spammers push.

        What if I prefer 'top-40' drivel?

        In the extreemly unlikely case some low power transmitter spewing an unlicensed signal on top of your pop music station... you'll probably only have to move a short distance or just orient your antenna a little differently to pick up the extreemly strong signal these stations transmit.

        Even if you're deprived of Top-40 for a little while, take comfort in the likelyhood that it won't last long. Sure, someone may be having a good laugh somewhere... but they're probably going to shut it off soon, partly for fear of getting caught, but also because it won't be long until they realize turning to an unused band or one with a very weak signal is going to buy them a lot more coverage.

        • Re:MicroBroadcasters (Score:4, Informative)

          by Otto (17870) on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:51PM (#9088217) Homepage Journal
          Like many other's posting today, you're stuck in the paradigm that microbroadcasters are going to intentionally broadcast "on top" of some already in-use band... and that if it weren't for the FCC's enforcement of the licensed allocation the FM and AM bands would be utter chaos. I've got some news for you...

          I've got some news for you too. Transmitters "leak". A homemade transmitter tends to leak a lot. They don't stay confined to one and only one section, they spread across a chunk of spectrum. They have to, in fact, because that's how frequency modulation works. But when it goes a lot further than it's supposed to, it causes interference on neighboring channels.

          Few here are concerns about jackasses who try to steal bandspace from some other station. That's a self solving problem. But poorly made transmitters that knock out a whole MHz of the spectrum at a time is not unheard of, or indeed, uncommon in pirate radio.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Good point, unfortunately.

      Historically, when I see the words "Berkeley" and "Free speech" mentioned in the same article, I put on my hip boots. "Free speech" at Berkeley usually means "Free speech for people who agree with us; everybody else gets a free roll of duct tape."

      I hope the Free Radio Berkeley people aren't actively encouraging folks to broadcast on top of legal FM licensees. That's a bad idea from both a political standpoint and a technical one (the 100 kW station will generally win, due to th
    • by Rik van Riel (4968) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:41PM (#9087396) Homepage
      That's why they need to be regulated, and probably given a few channels where they are allowed to broadcast at low power.

      Freedom of speech is good, freedom to make yourself heard even better. I'd really like to see a way for microbroadcasters to get on the air without disturbing the current users of the spectrum.
      • There has been a proposal to do exactly this, however the broadcast industry purchased a vote by Congress to override the FCC's technical plan. Recently a followup study found the interference concerns were without merit, look for legislation to be introduced very soon that will allow thousands of low power FM stations to be licensed.

        For background see the Free Press LPFM [freepress.net] page.
    • by warpSpeed (67927) <slashdot@fredcom.com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:44PM (#9087436) Homepage Journal
      While agree with you that the FCC is there to protect the spectrum from abuses, they are also crushing any kind of innovation by not accepting simple low power transmitters, used responsibly, as a legitimate use of the spectrum. If they were to allow low power transmitters, and provide specs as two what make said transmitter, you would see something happen akin to the WiFi market. There would be lots of people that would be interested in legal hardware that could provide the low power broadcasting. Simplify the process for applying for a licens for one of these low power transmitters, and you would have a vibrant market.

      The FCC says that only pirates are doing this, but until they sanction low power transmitters with legitimate rules, the hardware manufactures will not produce the product the "average joe" use...

      The FCC it self is the problem, because they are in the pockets of the Big Radio corps...

      • by Otter (3800)
        I don't have the slightest idea how radio trasnmissions could or could not be safely regulated, and accordingly have no view on what policies the FCC should enact.

        What I do know is that setting up my radio station because some badass-in-his-own-mind from Berkeley gave me some instructions and now the whole world will be able to listen to my homemade techno mixes and Top 40 stations will be doomed and the FCC will be powerless to stop me and I'll STRIKE A GLORIOUS BLOW FOR FREEDOM*****!!!!

        ...well, that wou

        • by warpSpeed (67927)
          I don't have the slightest idea how radio trasnmissions could or could not be safely regulated, and accordingly have no view on what policies the FCC should enact.

          This is why the FCC should produce specs on the subject, just like they do for WiFi equipment.

          What that would do is signal to the manufactures what they can make and sell as a legitimate product.

          Would'nt it be nice to legaly "STRIKE A GLORIOUS BLOW FOR FREEDOM*****!!!!", without getting arrested or fined?

      • Uh...

        The FCC does exactly what you're talking about. It only regulates stations above a certain wattage, even on the broadcast radio spectrum.

        You don't even need a license. Buy one of these [ramseyelectronics.com] and make your own radio station, man. It's easy. And with a few simple modes, you can double the range without irking the FCC. Place your antenna in the right place and you can get up to a mile of broadcast strength for your community station.
    • Actually, what upsets me more is the fact that someone with a high powered linear can affect more than just equipment that deals solely with Radio Waves.

      For instance, I watch tv, and pipe the audio through a home theatre receiver, which is then fed to my speakers. A few months ago, about once a week, we get this horribly loud noise of a trucker blaring out on his CB. Naturally, I thought it was a bit odd, because we're probably 2 miles or so to the nearest highway. In fact one evening it forced my recei
    • BPL (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Barbarian (9467)
      Yet the FCC is shirking it's duties by accepting the upcoming wideband interference of broadband over power lines in the frequency range of 3 to 80 mhz.
      • by mpost4 (115369) *
        as i said
        and they make mistakes
        I did have that but I forgote that slashdot removes anything between parenthesis.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:57PM (#9087598)
      I know this will not be popular, but there is a reason for the FCC to be around and to control the spectrum.

      The popularity of your statements is irrelevant. Their logic and basis is the issue.

      Also with these vandals (yes I use the word vandals) it would be nice if they were low power and such, but they get their kicks from broadcasting over another station.

      First, you've already made up your mind. Do you know any of "these vandals"? Have you met them?

      In my experience (and I have LONG experience in both ham radio and microbroadcasting) most of the people you're talking about will NOT broadcast over another station because doing so is contrary to their own goals.

      The goal of micropower radio is to HAVE A RADIO STATION OF YOUR OWN. It's a little counterproductive to go around vandalizing other stations. You tend to last longer the more you control your signal and keep it from interfering.

      That is one reason for the FCC to protect peoples right to their freq. If one wants something on the air there is always the public access stations.

      The peoples' right to their freq? Nobody has a RIGHT to a frequency under the FCC. The use of a frequency is a PRIVILEGE doled out to those who can either pass a test (ham radio) or pay enough cash (spectrum auctions, license fees).

      Under the FCC, the PEOPLE have NO RIGHT to broadcast anything. And that's the problem. The spectrum belongs to EVERYONE but the FCC will only allow broadcasting to those who have deep, deep pockets.

      Precisely whose interests do you suppose they are protecting?

      Or you could do a net stream, there are many other options, the FCC is not there just to hurt the little guy, they are there to protect the bands, they are not always good at it, and they make mistakes

      You COULD do lots of things. You could publish a book or you could distribute tapes or you could stand on a box in a park with a bullhorn.

      The problem with this argument is that it's fallacious. It says, "You don't need to do A because you can always do B." Fine, there are always alternatives.

      Why do you need to use the internet? I mean really...you could use the telephone or send a letter or distribute your data on floppies or cds. When you use the internet, you're risking interference to others. How do we know that your machine won't become infected with a virus and trojan and send out spam or attack our networks? We'd better regulate the Internet and make so that only the wealthy can use it! Oh, we'll give little 14.4k connections to those who can pass a test...that way if they get infected then they can only send a little spam.

      The fallacy is about convenience. Why do 3 to 6 megacorporate conglomerates get to control ALL public discourse in the United States via the most powerful media? They clearly don't do a good job and they clearly have a vested interest in keeping certain information from us (like when their other products are faulty or their CEO commits a crime).

      Why can't WE THE PEOPLE, by whose authority public resources are SUPPOSED to be available fairly (if not equally), use broadcast media for our own purposes?

      Cost? Anyone can now buy or build a transmitter that will comply with regulations for little money.

      Scarcity of spectrum? Maybe in New York or LA but in a town like Des Moines, Iowa there's PLENTY of specturm available...and a town like that NEEDS the diversity of voice.

      Standards? BULLSHIT! America has no standards but the dollar.

      The issue is competition. Understand this concept and everything else makes sense. People who have money and power will DO ANYTHING (lie, cheat, steal and kill) to keep others from getting money and power. Win lose mentality. The FCC are merely their buttboys.

      The problem with this is that microbroadcasting isn't about money and power. It's about freedom and it's about choice and it's about diversity and it's about art and it's about expression. But the big corps can't fathom this. How could something not be about our one right true and only God MONEY????

      Top 40 and talk radio are a disease. Micropowerbroadcasting is the cure.
    • Re:MicroBroadcasters (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Woodmeister (7487)
      Yup. All of your points are quite valid. The main problem here though is probably "Big Radio". Because spectrum is scarce and the need for a reliable means of the most essential means of receiving information exists, we do need the FCC (or the CRTC up here in the Great White North) to enforce rules regarding the improper use of the public airwaves. However, the airwaves are a "public" resource, and some of it should be allocated to any Joe who wishes to operate a low power (ie. a couple of watts or less) FM
      • Agreed that Big Radio plays a big part of the problem in that the same stuff is always played.

        Also with the lowpower stations, maybe a diffirant band of the spectrum could be alocated to them ( I know people would need diffirant radios to listen to them) But ya it would be nice if there was a legil way for lowpower stations to exist to add some flavor to the mix. but with the LPFM, how would the licencing go, I sure hope not like GPMR is done here in the us (you pay 80USD and you got a licence) I would l
    • Actually, most of the modern microbroadcasters make extra-sure that they don't interfere with existing stations. Most folks can't afford enough power to broadcast over an existing station. The vandals who try to replace signals (best known by the "Max Headrom" prankster) are a seperate group of folks.

      I'm not on the streets protesting for them, but the microbroadcasters have a pretty good point. The NAB has, more or less, done nothing but lie to congress to try to protect the interests of the big compani
    • they get their kicks from broadcasting over another station

      This statement makes absolutely no sense. I have attended workshops run by people mentioned in this article and they spend much time on how to broadcast without interfering. It takes quite a bit more work to not interfere, you have to buy extra equipment and use testing tools to do a survey. Its much easier to just slap together a kit and pick a frequency. That is not what the people in this article are about.

      Most people that start radio stat
    • I know this will not be popular, but there is a reason for the FCC to be around and to control the spectrum.

      Indeed there is. The only problem is that the FCC was originally supposed to be a bunch of Joe Citizens. It was not supposed to cave to media interests and fuck over the end users. It was not intended to give its blessings to allow media monopolies.

      I'm all in favor of regulation and control of the spectrum - otherwise, my neighbor next door would be able to broadcast porn on the same frequency

    • I love this PDF of the Radio Spectrum [doc.gov]. If you look carefully you'll see that there really isn't an amazing amount of space in the FM spectrum so it wouldn't take too many unlicensed channels to cause problems.
      Incidently, I feel that the AM spectrum is a greater waste of radio spectrum then all other wastes combined. Heck, FM and HAM combined use less then half the spectrum of AM. I know that lower frequencies don't carry as much information, but surely there is a better use for that low frequency space t
  • by Gr33nNight (679837) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:31PM (#9087258)
    Are these Pirates or Patriots?

    Can they be both?
  • by erick99 (743982) * <homerun@gmail.com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:31PM (#9087261)
    Not only is this is a good idea in terms of some diversity over the radio waves, but it might get kids interested in electronics again like ham radio and a few other hobbies used to do:

    "...offer how-tos for building transmitters and antennas..."

    I also like what it can do for neighborhoods where it might enhance a sense of community which is sorely lacking these days. Either way, I think everyone wins and that doesn't happen very often (well, the NAB doesn't think that they win but anything that promotes radio eventually helps the NAB).

    Happy Trails!

    Erick

  • Top 40 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by All Names Have Been (629775) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:31PM (#9087267)
    No one would tune into Top-40 radio.

    Aaahhh .. yeah. Never underestimate the banality of the common man. Even in areas where there is substantial choice, Top-40 pulls 'em in. Like it or not, it's there because it makes money.
    • Re:Top 40 (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      aw, c'mon... don't you know that once we fire up this "Internet" it will be wonderful because anybody will be able to have their own "website" that they can fill with their own content for all of us to see.

      It will be great. I also envision these "websites" having a feature that allows people to write down their fascinating thoughts on everyday life. These daily logs on the "websites" ( I coined the term "weblog", but it might be too wordy) will be a fascinating addition to the body of human literature.

      May
    • Re:Top 40 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428)
      Not to mention the fact that a majority of people who listen to the radio do so when they're driving, in my experience. I don't think Microbroadcasting's going to really work (unless you like retuning your dial every 20-30 seconds.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:32PM (#9087276)
    Imagine this: A thousand little stations send radio programming across cities and towns from senior centers, dorm rooms and attics. The understaffed FCC would be powerless to shut them down. Audiences would have substantive content choices. No one would tune into Top-40 radio.... Are these Pirates or Patriots?

    Try "idiots". There's only so much radio band out there. If there were 1000 little stations then result would not be 1000 choices of content, it would be ZERO choices of content, because there'd be so much mishmash and overlap that nobody'd be able to tune in shit without interference.

    If you want to kill off FM Radio, this'd be a good way to do it. But it wouldn't be a good way to help out the people who just want to hear tunes. Want to broadcast your selection of tunes? Go get a license like everybody else.
    • Yeah, that's exactly the word that came into my mind when I first read it.

      If you want to start your own radio station, do it on the internet.
    • I agree with most of what you said but you seem to have missed a rather large point to all this: the FCC charges 100,000 for a liecense, so "everybody else" cannot afford to broadcast. I think we need regulation of the radio waves mainly for the purposes of science, I have had to deal with annoying people who transmit where they shouldn't be while I was trying to do science in the same bandwidth. But I don't see why this means we need to have 50 clearchannel stations and none or very few from average Joe
      • But I don't see why this means we need to have 50 clearchannel stations and none or very few from average Joe's.

        The most stations I'm aware of, in one location, that ClearChannel owns is 12. That one I've seen personally, as they simply bought all the radio stations in the area and moved them all into the same broadcast building. The content of them all didn't really change, just the advertising schemes.

        But I doubt anywhere at all has "50" channels owned by the same people (be it ClearChannel or anybody
    • FM Radio died a while ago. When the FCC (or was it congress?) relaxed the rules on station ownership. Bye bye diversity. Hello corporate bland.

      But I agree that having thousands of idiots kicking the corpse ain't gonna help it get any better.

      SteveM

    • Bingo.

      In addition, the claim that there would be so much more "substantive content" is patently silly. It takes a lot of work to create substantive content. It takes a lot more than just looping your entire mp3 collection. It takes people and time and money.

      Of course, if you are just retransmitting something someone else has produced, it is a lot simpler, but then, you're just retransmitting someone else's work.

      As for this killing top-40 ... har. The only reason it would kill top-40 is if someone is del

    • by akb (39826) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:53PM (#9087552)
      The FCC proposed doing just what you have said is impossible, that is, licensing thousands of low power FM stations. However, the broadcast industry purchased a vote in Congress [slashdot.org] to override the FCC's technical findings. They cut the number of stations from thousands to a few hundred by requiring overly strict and told the FCC to study it a second time. The FCC study came back recently [slashdot.org] with the same results as the first one, thousands of stations can be licensed w/o causing interference.

      Watch for a new bill from John McCain to allow thousands of low power FM stations to be licensed. Maybe if you become more informed about the issue you will ask your Congress critters to support this legislation since your interference concerns have been allayed. If you want more info take a look at the Free Press LPFM page [freepress.net]

    • If there were 1000 little stations then result would not be 1000 choices of content, it would be ZERO choices of content

      I don't think that would be the case. People broadcasting want to be heard. They'd work it out so that their little slices don't overlap. It's like thousands of pedestrians downtown. You don't say "Oh no! We mustn't have pedestrians because they will all try to use the same bit of sidewalk!" We don't need a pedestrian traffic manager, and we don't need the FCC.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If there were 1000 little stations then result would not be 1000 choices of content, it would be ZERO choices of content, because there'd be so much mishmash and overlap that nobody'd be able to tune in shit without interference

      Not true. If there are two transmitters on the same frequency using FM then you will only pick up one of them. It's called the capture effect [wikipedia.org]. You may not get the station you want but there would be lots of stations to choose from. AM works the way you think, FM doesn't.

  • by Neil Blender (555885) <neilblender@gmail.com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:32PM (#9087278)
    Bullshit. That's like saying if you broadcast pirate TV shows, noone would watch Survivor or American Idol.
    • It's typical niave thinking that says if I don't like something, nobody likes it.
      A lot of people like top 40s. Top 40 was around before radio stations where owned by clear channel.

    • well, given that illegal movie downloads have tripled over the past year according to this BBC article
      news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3692999 .stm

      i wouldnt be surprised if some people start broadcasting pirated movies any time soon...

      just imagine the backlash that this would cause!
  • chaos... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AmigaAvenger (210519)
    Ahh, the ignorance of the OSS type mind!

    Everyone is free to do what they want, including broadcasting over someone on a popular frequency if you don't agree with their message. Should your local little broadcast station become too popular, one of your competitors mearly has to jam your signal out of existance. nothing you can do, no reprecussions, you just have to sit and take it.

    • and remember kids, large RIAA backed groups can afford biger broadcast gear then you can.
    • if it can be used to bring down an opressive system. These people seem to think that the FCC is an opressive system. There are probably better ways to get your message out than this, but it's a protest and protests are often silly.
  • by moviepig.com (745183) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:35PM (#9087316) Homepage
    This sort of underground culture is such a good thing that, if the repressive laws causing it didn't already exist, we should enact them.
  • imagine... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neiffer (698776) * on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:36PM (#9087332) Homepage
    adding the internet to this mix...streaming a station to 100 people who then broadcast it to a combined millions...someone could broadcast to a substantial audience from their basement
  • Check this one out.
    It was pretty good and actually had some input from people who do this.

    I know it's in real player, but ya gotta take what they give ya.
    Pirate radio show. [wpr.org]
  • So, Congress is supposedly still investigating whether a low power, 100 watt station, will interfere with a 10,000 watt big boy broadcaster. This is why the FCC pulled out about 75% of the possible frequencies and number of low-power stations per district.

    Anyone want to place money on the outcome of that congressional research? I lay odds at 1 to 1 that the report will state that little broadcasters are ruining the signals of the big guys.

    Congress is such a wonderful scientifically responsible and honest
    • The 100 Watt station will indeed interfere.
      The difference is only a factor 100 and as such any place were the distance to the small station is ten times as small as the distance to the large station the small station will appear to be stronger.
      Even if it is more than ten there will be a substantional area were it will be in the same power range as the larger one.

      Jeroen
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:39PM (#9087369)
    Most 'pirate' radio has tended to broadcast either 'college' rock/alternative or political speech from one of the two classical extreems (socialist left or faschist right). Substantive content choices will have to mean more than "Not Brittany". It will need to include educqtional programming, targeted at the specific neighborhood, or musical programming preserving vanishing jazz or blues artists, or op-ed that's more substantive (there's that pesky wood again) than the soundbite of the moment approack.
  • A thousand little stations send radio programming across cities and towns from senior centers

    Yeesh... I mean, old people and I both love Sinatra, but yeesh... that's a powder keg of boredom and crazy ranting waiting to go off...
  • by caffeineboy (44704) <skidmore.22@o[ ]edu ['su.' in gap]> on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:42PM (#9087406)
    "The Underground" was a radio station broadcast from the top of one of the dorms at OSU. They tried without success to get a license to broadcast, including a low power license, for years... Finally, they just started broadcasting at a couple of watts from the dorm with no license.

    To put it in perspective, I lived about 300M away from their broadcast site and I couldn't get any reception.

    Anyway, the FCC came in and turned their power down to the legal limit. You can't get their station from 4 floors below their antenna anymore.

    "there are too many, they can't get us all" is not a valid way to go about changing things, especially when the penalties are harsh like the penalties for FCC violations.

    Plus, who wants the local idiot to set up a station and swamp out a station you actually like? I'm not saying that I like anything that is being broadcast, and I wish like hell I could get the underground on my radio, but it just isn't going to happen until we start reforming media ownership laws...

  • Ignorant snobs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Genevish (93570) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:42PM (#9087407) Homepage
    No one would tune into Top-40 radio.
    This always annoys me. Why do you think it's top 40? Most people like that form of music. Just because YOU don't doesn't mean everyone is clamoring for other music, otherwise the "indie" labels would be much more successful.
    • Most people like that kind of music because that is ALL THEY HEAR. People turn on the radio, go to the movies, change channels on the TV and that is ALL THERE IS.

      Yes, not everyone 'clamors' for 'other' music, but these people don't know that there IS OTHER MUSIC.

      Never underestimate the laziness and apathy of Americans, because MOST ALL OF THEM ARE.

      You'll see that the RIAA is making use of the fact that people will consume WHATEVER IS IN FRONT OF THEM, a fact that MS uses in including IE with every copy

  • The understaffed FCC would be powerless to shut them down. Audiences would have substantive content choices. No one would tune into Top-40 radio.

    ... And Top-40 radio would lobby real hard to be sure the FCC didn't stay understaffed and that the FCC would be adequately empowered to shut them down. In the meantime, they'd probably lobby real hard for the FCC to make examples of some of the more visible microbroadcasters.

  • by Rick.C (626083) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:46PM (#9087456)
    Try this [northcountryradio.com] if you want to build a free-standing FM transmitter from a kit, or this [pcs-electronics.com] if you want to drop a PCI card into your PC and be on the air instantly.
    • Or this [ramseyelectronics.com] if you've got some money available, or this [ramseyelectronics.com] if you've got a small budget, or this [ramseyelectronics.com] if you're cheap, or this [ramseyelectronics.com] if you're really cheap and don't care if you sound like crap and can't be tuned in.
  • Are these Pirates or Patriots?

    Both: They are Piratriots.
  • by MisterLawyer (770687) <mikelawyer&gmail,com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:48PM (#9087489)
    "The understaffed FCC would be powerless to shut them down."

    Young Skywalker, do not underestimate the power of the FCC [radio4all.org]:

    When the Federal Communications Commission came calling to shut down two local pirate radio stations late last year, the pirates say they got hit with a heavy dose of law enforcement muscle - choppers, submachine guns, flak jackets and other equipment and tactics usually seen in the takedown of killers or major drug desperados. (emphasis added)

  • Pirates (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alienw (585907) <alienw...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:49PM (#9087497)
    These people are definitely ordinary radio pirates. The FM band has licensing for a reason -- because there is not enough space for everyone. I cannot find an empty spot on the FM band even in a college town with less than 20,000 people. The band is crowded, and there is not enough room for everyone and their dog.

    Besides, has anybody else noticed that the reason most "microbroadcasters" are "micro" is because nobody wants to listen to them? After all, if everyone is dissatisfied with clearchannel and likes some random local broadcaster, they can always persuade the FCC to give the small station a license instead. After all, that works for college stations, NPR stations, and many local stations. So, the pirate stations have to resort to tactics like interfering with a legitimate broadcaster in order to promote their crappy and unpopular format.
  • by Control Group (105494) * on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:50PM (#9087514) Homepage
    You're kidding, right? Analog FM bandwidth is a very limited resource. Worst case scenario you end up with so many different signals you've got nothing but noise. Only slightly better (and the best you could reasonably hope for, with this, IMHO) would be many tiny cells in each city, within which you could hear a given station.

    This isn't better. I'd rather listen to a commercial rock station and hear mediocre songs all the way through and put up with ~25% advertising than institute a model where I can't hear any song to the end in my car, because I lose reception too fast.

    Even if - maybe especially if - it's a song I love.

    The FCC, for all its flaws, serves a useful purpose. It regulates the use of a freely-accessible (technically, at least) resource which is extremely limited in supply.

  • Now that friends has just aired its series finale, you *know* Americans are just dying to try something new and trendy. What could be cooler than making like Christian Slater and pumping up the volume!?!? That's right you Elvis fan, it's time to dust off your LPs and start gyrating them hips. Three cheers for the aspiring Marconis amongst the air waves!
  • No more Top-40? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Humorously_Inept (777630) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:52PM (#9087541) Homepage
    No one would tune into Top-40 radio

    How many of the unfeasible thousands of tiny radio stations do you figure would be playing Top-40 anyway? There really isn't enough diversity in music to support even a modest number of unique radio stations. Most of them would be playing dead-air or else experiencing wide overlaps in content.

    Beyond that, what are the chances that this technology could be used for evil instead of good? Does anyone remember the hooligans who usurped a Burger King drive through system and berated customers for being fat? Unfortunately, a tool like radio would probably inspire the worst in poorly mannered people rather than the best in mild mannered ones.

    The technical aspect is very interesting and well worth teaching. The social aspect needs a disclaimer.
    • There really isn't enough diversity in music to support even a modest number of unique radio stations. Most of them would be playing dead-air or else experiencing wide overlaps in content.

      I'm gonna call bs on that. The local 80s station here(Mix104) just keeps playing the same 300 80s 'top-40' songs over and over and over and over and over again. I have more 80s musical variety in my car than they do in their whole "playlist".
    • >There really isn't enough diversity in music to support even a modest number of unique radio stations.

      Out of a thousand stations: 10 AOR, 10 Hip Hop, 50 College Town Indie, 929 JEEEEEZUSSS Saves Send Money, and 1 guy broadcasting an audio tape of his girlfriend and him going at it on the kitchen table.
  • I turn on the radio and get cross talk and garbled words because of all the damn idiots broadcasting in my area.
  • Power less (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pottymouth (61296) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:54PM (#9087568)
    "Imagine this: A thousand little stations send radio programming across cities and towns from senior centers, dorm rooms and attics. The understaffed FCC would be powerless to shut them down. "

    Is that like the RIACC is powerless to stop the millions of downloaders and file traders from sharing music, etc... because there's just too many people doing it? All they have to do is get the interested parties (commercial radio for instance) to call their lawyers who will call their lobbyists who will pay a few judges/polititians who will write a law that includes a fine so large (you know, like up to $150,000.00 per song) that no one will take the risk of getting caught. Then they just have to arrest a few people to set an example and all the sheep run back to the barn...

    Welcome to America man, land of the Lawyer... Someday this may again be a free country but not today.
  • by gilroy (155262) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:55PM (#9087573) Homepage Journal

    Are these Pirates or Patriots?"
    ...there isn't much difference, except time for a historical perspective...
  • FCC? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nukem1999 (142700) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:56PM (#9087580)
    If this happened right now, I think the FCC would be more worried about shutting down Stern than all these little transmitters. More money and votes to be won in censorship than in regulation.
  • Ultra low power FM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by certsoft (442059) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:57PM (#9087597) Homepage
    You can also get "sorta Part 15 compliant" transmitters if you only want to cover a 1/4 mile radius or less. I put together one of these kits: FM100B [ramseyelectronics.com] and it works well.

    As for subversive news, the article mentioned Democracy Now, I've never heard that one, but I often catch Free Speach Radio News on Pacifica Radio's streaming audio, or if I miss it, download it from FSRN [fsrn.org]

  • Riiiiight. (Score:4, Funny)

    by CheapEngineer (604473) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:57PM (#9087599)
    "And the media moguls would slink back into their caves." Never before have I laughed so hard @ work that the Sation manager came down to the shop and asked me to pipe down, until I read this line. Stop it, *please*, yer killin' me. Cheap Engineer Somewhere in Corporate TV land
  • Like it's not hard enough commuting and having the radio occasionally cut out to the Brittany Spears song .2 MHz off, now I have to be interrupted every fifteen feet by hundreds of 13 year olds with transmitters and their own call-in show listened to only by their next door neighbor playing their "All-Rancid-and-Green Day Morning, OMG WTF LOL!!!" on my way to work.
  • by dgp (11045) on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:00PM (#9087645) Journal
    Set up a thousand little 802.11 hotspots with point-to-point links to send all sorts of data across cities and towns from senior centers, dorm rooms and attics! Its already legal! The hardware is already cheap!

    Now you've not only got local content streaming radio, you've got VoIP services, freely distributable media sharing, local news blogs, etc etc.

    This is the dream of many wireless community networking groups, including The Personal Telco Project [personaltelco.net] in Portland, Oregon, USA.
  • Did you say something?

  • Already happened (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eltoyoboyo (750015) on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:01PM (#9087652) Journal
    Maybe the poster might be to young to remember the Citizen's Band phenomenon in the 1970's. And while the underlying thought might be that the FCC is powerless or understaffed, try broadcasting in Clear Channel's AM/FM bandwidth and see how fast you get slapped with a cease-and-desist order.
  • shortwave (Score:3, Informative)

    by Barbarian (9467) on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:02PM (#9087665)
    Most "pirates" broadcast in shortwave, well away from any major AM and FM broadcasters.

    www.frn.net has a sightings forum if you want to listen to this stuff.
  • he understaffed FCC would be powerless to shut them down.

    But the DoJ would be empowered to prosecute these people for facilitation and conspiracy to break the law for telling all of these radio pirates that they should be broadcasting without licenses.

    LK
  • Haven't they got lives to get on with?

    Ah, let's see, this is slashdot we're discussing this on ...
  • Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

    Is being a patriot really a good thing?

    Patriot , n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

    From a dictionary [richardgingras.com] via Google [google.co.uk]

    Of course, there are many other definitions, but I like thie one above.

    Why is someone who fights others because "My country is better than your country" held in such high regard? After all, we despise those who fight and kill

  • How about, instead of the FCC having total control of the airwaves for the enitre country, they give control to the states, or the metropolitan areas to control locally? Or some split deal (broadcast power below a certian level is run by the state/city, higher has both state and federal, or only federal).

    It seems that if I have a low power station, and I registered with a city or state authority for the frequency in that city, I should be covered, since if the power shouldn't be enough to get to antoher c
  • *Turns off car stereo, stopping the loud music coming from his iPod + tape adapter*

    Sorry. Pirate radio? Who listens to radio anymore?
  • Interference (Score:5, Informative)

    by kitzilla (266382) <paperfrog@NOSPAM.gmail.com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:10PM (#9087761) Homepage Journal
    I work for a major broadcast corporation, but hope this will be taken on its own merits and as my personal opinion.

    I like the idea of "hobbyist" broadcasting. The more voices, the merrier. Power to the people. There's no downside -- in theory.

    The idea, though, of turning anyone with a soldering iron and microphone loose on our already crowded broadcast bands sounds like a disaster, though. Homebrew transmitters will be filthy, interefering with services inside and outside the broadcast spectrum.

    The FCC has the legitimate purpose of regulating public airwaves for just this reason. Radio anarchy will reduce the usefulness of *all* broadcasting and many other services. Wanna surf wi-fi? Better hope your neighbor ain't running a dirty transmitter in your apartment complex.

    I wish the Commission would consider laying aside a MHz or so for hobbyist broadcasters. But they should require type-accepted transmitters and dictate minimum technical standards of operation. None of this would be expensive or an undue burden upon those who would like to air out the First Amendment.

    There's also the question of broadcast obscenity and indecency. If such broadcasts are illegal for licensed stations, the same should apply to hobbyists.

  • by wytcld (179112) on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:13PM (#9087795) Homepage
    Let's remember that Sir Francis Drake [stemnet.nf.ca] was a pirate, as well as the proto-feminists Mary Read and Anne Bonny [arthur-ransome.org]. In Drake's case, the Spanish were plundering their American conquests for gold to use to arm themselves for invasion of England. Drake not only was instrumental in defeating the Armada directly, but in cutting off the funding for the Spanish terror as a licensed privateer, chartered by the Crown to seize Spanish shipping. The Crown eventually revoked the licenses to Drake and his peers, but the pirates were enabled to continue their careers awhile especially by the free trade policies of New Amsterdam, whose Dutch citizens could still remember the evils of the former Spanish dominion over Holland.

    The essential outlines of respectable piracy are these: A group seizing wealth to which it has no real moral claim, and using that wealth to further increase the scope of its power towards absolute monopoly, controlled through a close collusion of centralized wealth, power and religion (e.g. Spain /Inquisition with New World gold, or Clear Channel/Bush with the "public" airwaves) is opposed by independent, free-thinking owners of their own rigs, preserving liberty against the dark designs for ultimate consolidation of power.

    Pirates can be good, those opposed to them as evil as the conquistadors. Without pirates, Spain could have taken control of most all of Europe and the Americas, the Inquisition would still be ongoing, and the level of economic development and social justice would be that of a typical South American country at best. The public should find ways to directly charter pirates, in doing so aligning them with the public good as Drake was allied with the good of England. Then the FCC will be as unlikely to act decisively against them as it is to take on Opra [nypost.com].
  • by Parker51 (552001) on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:54PM (#9088256)
    Many of us in radio are quite familiar with Mr. Dunifer's history. Here are some of the more notorious examples:
    • Back in the early 90's, Free Radio Berkeley advertised radio transmitter kits for sale and was unable to ship them on time, leaving many paying customers hanging for months without any feedback. In response to the inevitable complaints, rather than apologize or politely explain unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Dunifer tells them to kiss my ass [google.com].

    • Around the same timeframe, FRB announces that they have been "invited" to Lollapalooza to set up booths and give demonstrations of pirate radio. I put the word invited in quotes because FRB got turned away at the gate at Lollapalooza at many tour locations. Blame it on poor planning by FRB, communications/coordination problems with Lollapalooza sponsors, or the whole thing inevitably degrading into a say-you're-with-FRB-and-you-get-into-Lollapalooza- for-free scam.

    • In 1998, after three years of tilting at windmills filing appeals in federal courts, Stephen Dunifer's own pirate radio station is shut down. The judge granted the U.S. Attorney's motion for summary judgement, and issued a permanent injunction [radio4all.org].


    What's ironic, and maudlin about the whole affair, is if Mr. Dunifer had not blatantly violated FCC rules, he would have been eligible to submit an application for a Lower Power FM (LPFM) license, which the FCC has begun granting again [fcc.gov]. Even if Mr. Dunifer is himself ineligible, he could have used this opportunity to encourage and support others in applying for such licenses. However, you won't see Mr. Dunifer or FRB doing this. They would rather play with their own toys by their own rules, and society be damned.
  • by telemonster (605238) on Friday May 07, 2004 @04:05PM (#9088424) Homepage
    Hello. I had a LPFM station, and was visited by the FCC. A few notes...

    With the modern equipment and some caution, it is easy to avoid harmonics, and I never experienced adjacent channel interference. Supposidly down in Flordia (Miami?) there are lots of problems with intereference as immigrants run poorly constructed equipment. However, in most cases (like my visit) the FCC could cite ZERO interference. Either the FCC heard about it on the internet (they look), or a commercial station turned you in because they don't like the thought of competition in the market. I don't think LPFM stations would show up in the ratings.

    The FCC responded to the LPFM (Low Power FM (Pirate radio)) craze with the LPFM rulings that appeared to setup a legal chance for people to have 10 and 100 watt stations. The thing is, most of the tickets went to churches. ***YAWWWWNNN*** Congrats, the radio band is now filled and there is no room for evil pirates playing non-top 40 format. Church groups are already allowed to have translators, so it was kind of a disappointment. I think Kennard was big on the church tip, so this might explain it.

    If you WERE to drop your station over a commercial station, multipath signal antics would cause neither to sound good a short distance from your arial.

    The NAB is really out to protect it's members. Monopolistic. No one wants competition. So that is just the way it is....

    An *INTERESTING* thing is the new Icom D-Star ham radio equipment. It does 128kbps TCP/IP data via repeaters for Ham radio. I'm not 100% positive, but maybe if someone designed a cheap 1.2ghz digital receiver that could decode mp3 data from the DCOM ham radio system it would be possible to run a metro radio service using streaming mp3 data, along with the callsign of the station owner. There are projects to interface to various car decks, but widespread audience wouldn't be obtainable with the hardware requirements and some HAM people might get pissed if tons of the transmitters started showing up spewing 24x7 data.

    I gotta admit, it was run running a station. But the requirements for operating legal are a bore, and it seems to take the fun out of it. LDBrewer was the big source for the equipment, and FCC owned him in a major way. The lack of gear has slowed the spread of LPFM. It is pretty much died AFAIK.

    And yet another thing, does anyone know if something like a HP 22ghz spectrum analyzer can be set to watch the broadcast FM spectrum (88mhz to 108mhz)... then if anything new shows up, throw an alert via RS232? I've always wanted to monitor for FM pirates in my area...

    You never know what might show up on the dial...

  • Sheesh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Friday May 07, 2004 @04:18PM (#9088559) Journal
    Imagine this: A thousand little stations send radio programming across cities and towns from senior centers, dorm rooms and attics. The understaffed FCC would be powerless to shut them down.

    Imagine this: A thousand little stations interfering with police, fire and ambulance radio dispatching and communications, and, even better, aircraft communications. The understaffed FCC can't shut them down, but the FAA comes in and (deservedly) kicks your ass.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. It's low power FM and everyone will make sure to be nice. Right. That's how things always work out, right? None of these homebrew transmitters will have a bad harmonic or other out of band spur, right? And as the FM band becomes fuzzed out no one will flee to other bands, right?

    This is the ONE legitimate purpose of the FCC- bandwidth management. You're so ideological stubborn you'd eliminate that as well and deliver the spectrum into chaos?

    • Re:Sheesh (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110)
      The FCC does happen to have a legitimate job, and nobody is trying to get rid of them. The problem is, they, like most of the government, have become completely corrupt, and a large movement like this is the only way to force them to do what the public wants, not just what the big companies want.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

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