What is LPFM?
LPFM stands for Low Power FM radio broadcasting. In the United States, the lowest minimum wattage a licensed FM radio station may have is 100 watts. There are lower-power FM transmitters in use, though, by some stations who want to increase their coverage area by extending their signal. These are called translators or boosters.
While these may only have a wattage measured in a range from dozens to hundreds, they are not true broadcast stations by the FCC’s definitions – they do not originate their own programming. They rely on a “parent” station to provide what they air.
Ham (amateur) radio uses a similar system called a repeater; people don’t broadcast from it. They shoot a signal into it, and then it gets re-broadcast to an area larger than what ham operators might reach with their own gear. In a nutshell, translators and boosters are the repeaters of FM radio.
LPFM is the common term used to define an FM broadcast station that originates its own programming but has the power of a translator or booster. Under current FCC rules, operating such a station is simply not allowed. You may also see LPFM referred to by other terms – like “LPRS,” “microradio,” and “mini-FM,” but they all mean the same thing. Continue reading “The History of LPFM”
The folks over at Free Press are looking for perspectives and opinions on the state of community/independent media in the United States. It’s part of the organization’s “New Public Media” initiative, which is a long-term campaign to reform the existing public broadcasting structure in the U.S. and, in so doing, perhaps put some of the “public” into public media. Continue reading “A Survey on Community Media”
I spent my New Year’s eve in somewhat bittersweet celebration with my compadre Paul Riismandel, otherwise well-known as the Mediageek. After seven and a half years of doing his Mediageek radioshow, which had been syndicated on more than a dozen stations in North America, Paul’s decided to hang up the mic. Continue reading “Adios, (Radio) Mediageek”
One of the traditions Paul and I have fallen into the habit of doing is looking back at the past year in telecom policy. Although 2008 was more a year of hot air than actual doings, we decided to take the time on his latest show to critically examine Lawrence Lessig‘s proposal to “Reboot the FCC.”
Since Mediageek the radio show only runs in half-hour segments on the Internets, but is now actually an hour long in real-time, Paul has also posted the second segment of our show, where we examine 2008 in the context of FCC enforcement against pirate radio.
Two days early, a crew of engineers and volunteers re-wired our transmission facilities to install WEFT’s new 10,000-watt transmitter. Coverage has not only returned to normal, but increased slightly, and the fidelity provided by the solid-state unit we now have has noticeably improved our signal.
According to a story in the daily newspaper, WEFT’s station manager says we’ll be “raising funds to replace more aging equipment as well.” Just in time for our fall fundraising drive….
I had the chance to visit some community radio stations in Budapest during my recent trip there.
Through the fortuitous circumstance of happening upon a fellow Wisconsinite while attending the ESF workshop (Paul the Mediageek just produced a show of us discussing that event in greater detail), who was also very interested in community radio, we ended up making contact with representatives from two community stations in Budapest, which we visited after the conference was over. Continue reading “Sampling Community Radio in Budapest”
For the last few weeks my home community radio station, WEFT, has been hobbling along at reduced power, due to severe weather which fried our 20 year-old, 10,000-watt transmitter. Over the course of this time, the station’s rented a 1,000-watt transmitter, bringing our effective radiated power up to about 1/5th of its licensed capacity.
Buying, shipping, and installing a 10,000-watt transmitter is not cheap (think approximately $60,000). Fortunately, because our old transmitter was insured and verifiably destroyed by an “act of God” (lightning/water damage), we should be receiving something around $27,000 in compensation. In conjunction with that, WEFT had a “rainy-day fund” set up shortly after we paid off the mortgage for our studio building more than 10 years ago. We paid off the mortgage early and saved the remainder. That fund has about $25,000 in it. Continue reading “Mother Nature, Meet Rainy-Day Fund”
On Friday, May 30, my local community radio station, WEFT, suffered a lightning strike to its antenna tower. Although the tower’s lightning protection system protected part of the airchain, it did not save it all: a critical piece of our 10,000-watt transmitter’s innards got fried. Upon inspection, there also appeared to be water damage, with “debris” found inside the transmitter itself. Repairs have been unsuccessful.
Regionally, the Midwest is suffering from a particularly rough patch of severe weather; WEFT is but one of many casualties to Mother Nature this summer. Typically, the weather extremes is one of the things that makes living here fun. Continue reading “When Lightning Strikes”
Next month, the FCC will open a long-awaited filing window for applicants for new non-commercial FM radio stations. The FCC is currently considering placing certain parameters/limitations on how many stations a single entity can apply for – possibly in hopes of avoiding the flood of mass-applications for FM translator stations filed by greedy godcasters in 2003.
At present, the FCC is considering capping the number of full-power FM stations a single entity can apply for at 10, but it’s waffling under pressure from some incumbent broadcasters, like the aforementioned godcasters and some public broadcast outfits. Continue reading “Full-Power FM Filing Window Imminent; FCC in Chicago”
The FCC will accept applications for non-commercial, full-power FM stations from October 12-19 of this year. That’s a filing window two days longer than the usual, and the heads-up announcement is 4-5 months earlier than standard.
The Prometheus Radio Project calls this “your best, and possibly last, opportunity to bring full power community radio to your town.” All applications must be filed electronically. Check GetRadio.org to do a quick search and see if the possibility exists where you live.