Radio Convergence: The Next Step

The definition of “radio” just got more complicated. Walk into any big-box electronics store and ask for “digital radio,” and they’ll (more likely than not) point you to XM and Sirius satellite receivers – much to the consternation of terrestrial radio broadcasters, who want their “HD” technology to be synonymous with “digital.” Receiver manufacturers are also blurring this boundary – one will soon roll out a receiver which is both XM and HD-compatible.
Now, XM has filed for a patent on the process of taking an XM satellite radio signal and rebroadcasting it as one of the channels on an HD-equipped FM radio station. This is actually somewhat easier than it might sound, because the audio encoding algorithms used by HD radio and satellite radio are related – they’re products of Lucent Technologies. Lucent has not only licensed its codec technology to XM and Sirius, but it’s a partial-owner of iBiquity Corporation, the company that owns the HD radio technology. Continue reading “Radio Convergence: The Next Step”

Pirate Radio USA Premieres

prusa_postcardThe latest feature-length film on the U.S. microradio movement got good reviews at the Bermuda International Film Festival, which called Pirate Radio USA “a fun, clever documentary that challenges the belief that Americans have freedom of speech.” One review called it “wicked funny“; another made a positive comparison to Pump Up the Volume. Large Bloody Marys were also consumed, a near-guarantee of fun for all involved. Continue reading “Pirate Radio USA Premieres”

Crashing Propaganda: Miami Redux

The standard line, “pirate stations interfere with airplanes,” has been quickly assimilated into the TV news groupthink of Miami. Earlier this month CBS 4 ran a relatively long story on the busting of “Radio Energy,” a Haitian station in North Miami. The actual video report is pretty sick.
Although reporter Ileana Varela explicitly states more than once that the particular station serving as the hook of her story was not alleged to have interfered with anything, Varela kicks off her report with the threat unlicensed stations pose to air traffic communications, something the anchor-banter leading into the story calls “a problem police say is growing and as a result putting the community at risk.” Placement of information is a key element of reportage, especially in a medium as time-constrained and punchy as television news. Continue reading “Crashing Propaganda: Miami Redux”

Translator-Monger Runs Afoul of Piracy

Earlier this month the FCC issued three Notices of Apparent Liability to a “Best Media, Inc.,” whose primary business model involves throwing up FM translator stations and then leasing them out to interested broadcasters. It would seem that Best Media is relatively new to this game: the licenses of three of the translators it received permits to operate in 2003 expired in 2004, and the company forgot to renew them for more than a year.
When the FCC twigged to the problem and opened an inquiry, Best Media sheepishly filed for license renewals. Not quick enough to avoid $21,000 in judgments – of which $9k is for muffing the paperwork and the balance for technically running pirate translators. Operating three unlicensed translator stations, therefore, is somewhat less egregious than running a single live-and-local pirate station, for which the FCC’s base fine begins at $10,000.

Common Frequency's Ambitious Outreach

I’ve recently received a couple of e-mails from people who have been contacted by the “Common Frequency Project” soliciting assistance in building new full-power FM community radio stations. Common queries include, “what is this about?” and “is it legit?”
Common Frequency has a web site which explains quite a bit. Most of its founders hail from Davis, California, where they’ve been involved with multiple community radio projects, including building LPFM stations. Common Frequency’s goals include identifying and preparing non-profit groups for an upcoming application window for full-power non-commercial FM radio station construction permits. Continue reading “Common Frequency's Ambitious Outreach”

Translator Hijack Involves Howard Stern Show

The most interesting tidbit of information to be found in the pending FM translator petition is not even about the proposal itself. It comes from the owner of a translator station in New Jersey which rebroadcasts an in-state gospel-caster. According to these comments, the “capture and substitution” of the FM translator station’s regular programming with Howard Stern’s uncensored Sirius radio show is a “daily occurrence.” One day Howard’s broadcast overrode the gospel music uninterrupted “for over twenty minutes.” Continue reading “Translator Hijack Involves Howard Stern Show”

Translator Petition Attracts Scant Comment

A couple dozen folks filed comments in the FCC’s proposed rulemaking to allow FM translator stations to originate their own programming. Several of the commenters are long-time LPFM activists, and many of them support the proposal provided that a translator’s license status is not used to bump LPFM stations off the air, and that the FCC be diligent enough to prevent this type of abuse, especially in light of the speculation and trafficking in translator station construction permits that’s gone on in recent years. (Conspicuously missing from the initial comment round is LPFM’s largest institutional proponent, the Prometheus Radio Project.)
Other supporters of the proposal include local owners of single translator stations, who believe they could be used to replace full-power stations in smaller communities that have since been bought out by broadcast conglomerates and moved closer to larger markets (“rimshot” stations). Continue reading “Translator Petition Attracts Scant Comment”

FCC Enforcement: The Paper Tiger Howls

April and May were very busy months for FCC field agents, as they tagged unlicensed FM stations in 11 states. In doing so, the total number of enforcement actions for the first half of the year is very likely to surpass the total for all of 2005. You’d think the FCC was on the warpath against pirates, and in one sense, it is. But it’s not as serious as it may seem.
It is true that the FCC is making contact with more stations. In most cases, this is most likely due to increased complaints from licensed stations who are being more diligent about scanning their local dials for signals which “don’t belong.” However, the contact is generally going no further than station visits and follow-up warning letters. In fact, the FCC now issues multiple warning letters to multiple parties involved in a single station. Three separate people received warning letters for the operation of the Portland Radio Authority; three entities have been tagged in an ongoing investigation into RadioActive San Diego; four people in the Pirate Cat Radio case. Continue reading “FCC Enforcement: The Paper Tiger Howls”

Drive-Time for Schoolkids

As if Channel One, which force-feeds kids adverts masquerading as infotainment over a closed-circuit TV system hard-wired into schools, wasn’t bad enough. BusRadio hits the children up with ad-patter on their way to and from school. And since the kids most likely to be found on a school bus skew younger than Channel One’s target demographic, one might say BusRadio softens students up for later Channel One exposure (the companies are not linked in any way that I can tell, except for the exploitation fetish, born from BusRadio founders’ earlier success in this regard). Continue reading “Drive-Time for Schoolkids”