Shortwave Bonanza

Unlike their microradio cousins operating on the FM dial, shortwave pirate broadcasters aren’t in the game to serve a specific community – unless you include those who’ve turned the hobby of scanning the shortwave bands into a science.
Shortwave radio broadcasting and listening is a very different sport from low power FM. Both types of broadcasters use only dozens of watts to get a signal out but FM signals are very localized. They only travel in a line-of-sight fashion, at best covering dozens of miles.
Shortwave radio, on the other hand, takes advantage of the upper levels of the atmosphere to extend their range. Using the electrically charged particles in the ionosphere, it is possible for a shortwave signal to “skip” through this layer and be heard hundreds or thousands of miles away.
This provides a fascinating challenge to the shortwave listener, who must optimize their receiving antennas and other equipment to best pick up these whispers of pirate radio. Continue reading “Shortwave Bonanza”

Target: Translator

Translators: they are a pox on the FM radio dial.
Translators, by definition, are small low-power FM radio stations licensed with power levels of up to 250 watts. Translators are licensed by the FCC as “relay stations” only: they may not originate their own programming and must rebroadcast the signal from a full-power “parent station.”
Translators were originally designed to be used by FM radio stations located in difficult terrain, like mountainous regions of the United States, to help fill in gaps in their signal area.
Instead, several groups (most notably religious “pay to pray”-type broadcasters) have used the translator rules to build large networks of low-power radio stations across the country. Translators are easier to site and cheaper to build and operate than full-power FM radio stations. Continue reading “Target: Translator”

Feet in the Fire

The most offensive tactic in the radio activists’ arsenal has been taking to the air without a license, thereby reclaiming a small spot on the dial where former radio listeners can become broadcasters.
But change appears to be in the air: recent reports from around the country point to a growing use of stronger tactics put to use. They involve turning commercial and public radio outlets against themselves.
Two methods of accomplishing this have been demonstrated recently. The first is the “signal hijack,” which can be accomplished in a variety of ways. All of them allow the rogue broadcaster to temporarily disrupt or even take over a licensed station’s signal. Continue reading “Feet in the Fire”

New Year: Same Game

2001 will be a very interesting year for the U.S. microradio movement. It is enjoying more popularity than ever even though a recent legalization effort was severely curtailed.
Unfortunately the long and protracted battle for low power radio licenses has come to a dismal end: commercial broadcasters and National Public Radio brought their full weight to bear to quash a two-year grassroots effort to add more voices to the dial.
FCC Commissioner Michael Powell is the likely candidate to become FCC Chairman this summer; Michael is the son of Colin Powell, President-elect George W. Bush’s nominee for Secretary of State. Consider this: Shortly before the FCC approved the merger of AOL and Time Warner last year, Colin Powell moved much of his investments into AOL stock – and reaped a killing when the merger was approved by his son. Continue reading “New Year: Same Game”