17 years ago(!), I left a budding career in radio journalism out of disgust with the trajectory the industry was taking. The break-point came when the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio teamed up in Congress to conduct a disinformation campaign designed to eviscerate the FCC’s then-newly proposed LPFM radio service.
However, A few months before I actually quit my job, I acquired all the components necessary to start an unlicensed microbroadcast station. “System P” was a 40-watt frequency-agile FM rig that used a portable military surplus antenna mast to conduct tactical broadcasts from a wide variety of locations. You could often hear the station in Madison, Wisconsin, primarily on evenings and weekends; but since the station was mobile much fun was had taking it to peoples’ homes and public events around the country to give the public a more substantive appreciation of the ease by which it could make “the public airwaves” very real.
Another key element of System P was to provide a last-mile node for what was then quite an experiemental webcast-activism scene (today commonly known as “livestreaming”). These often manifested in Independent Media Centers during times of protest, most notably against corporate global trade deals. Activists would converge on a city to fill the streets in order to disrupt the negotiation of these agreements, and the media coverage would invariably skew toward painting the activists as violent thugs and police/other security forces as the guardians of order. But when activists gained the ability to counteract this narrative – oftentimes by live reports from the streets directly – the discursive dynamic around these events changed. Continue reading “Nodes of Resistance: Sampling the Haitian Diaspora via FM+Internet”
Just received a comprehensive update on the work of the Radio Preservation Task Force, an initiative announced last year by the Library of Congress to digitally preserve local radio history. About 100 scholars spent last fall scouring libraries, museums, historical societies, and stations around the country looking for recordings large and small. More than 100,000 were discovered, and that impressed the LoC’s National Recording Preservation Board enough to move on to “phase two,” which (in part) will involve more detailed examination of our finds.
The Task Force is also lining up some specific preservation programs in conjunction with other media preservationists. Continue reading “Next Steps for Radio Preservation Task Force”
I mentioned this initiative a few months ago when I first heard about it, but the details have only recently been released. Can you help us assemble a national archive of local radio broadcasts?
The official name of this project is the Radio Preservation Task Force, being conducted under the auspices of the LoC’s National Recording Preservation Board. For many years, the NRPB has pursued various study-strategies to get a sense of just how much of our nation’s broadcast history has actually been preserved.
Turns out, it’s not much: sure, you can easily find and watch pretty much any of the “Big Three” national TV newscasts of the last 40+ years, but radio has no such archive, and local radio is especially unremembered. The Radio Preservation Task Force hopes to change that, with special focus on radio broadcasts from 1922-1980, and especially those from the noncommercial, educational side of the medium. Continue reading “Library of Congress Launches Local Radio Preservation Project”
When the FCC raided TOUCH FM in Boston this spring, many lamented its demise. But its frequency didn’t stay silent for long: less than two months after the FCC’s sweep of the city, a pop-up station temporarily reoccupied 106.1 FM.
Noises Over Norwell broadcast from a two-story home in Dorchester currently under the receivership of Fannie Mae. Its former owners moved back in with the assistance of City Life/Vida Urbana, a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting economic injustice in Boston. The station was a cornucopia of information, discussion, and creativity about the state of the economy and the surrounding neighborhood; when "dormant," you simply heard the ambient sounds of a lived-in home. Continue reading “Pop-Up Station Pays Homage to TOUCH FM”
An interesting five-year experiment allowing radio listeners to (slightly) program their favorite stations ended over the weekend.
The online service, called Jelli, allowed listeners to nominate and vote for/against songs on a radio station’s playlist. Though a far cry from a 2000 Flushes-style listener takeover of a radio station, Jelli did provide a unique means of melding broadcasting, smartphones, and social media—something the radio industry itself has only recently begun serious investment in. Continue reading “Melted Jelli”
The sordid situation of Pacifica Radio took another turn last week, when the owners of the Empire State Building—where WBAI’s transmitter and antenna are located—threatened to pull the plug on the station. According to a report dated June 19th by Pacifica Foundation Interim Executive Director Bernard Duncan, rent payments from WBAI to the ESB for May and June were "returned indicating an imminent eviction." Continue reading “WBAI Facing Eviction from Transmitter Facilities”
Free Speech Radio News announced this past weekend that it will resume a semblance of operations on Tuesday, February 11th. It’s a soft launch, beginning with the provision of limited content and then working up to the resumption of regular daily broadcasts.
A pioneer of the networked newsroom, FSRN has been a stalwart of community broadcasting in the United States for more than a dozen years. Unfortunately, it fell silent last September after its major funder, Pacifica Radio, welshed on several outstanding bills. Continue reading “Free Speech Radio News Rides Again”
Uh-oh, indeed. Pacifica’s National Board is now soliciting bids to take over the programming and operations of its station in New York City. WBAI is prime real estate, transmitting with 4,300 watts of power from atop the Empire State Building on a choice frequency smack dab in the middle of the FM dial. The station’s worth tens of millions of dollars were it ever to be sold.
This was a long time coming. WBAI, like many of Pacifica’s radio stations, is caught in the jaws of a dilemma as old as community radio itself. Essentially, people can lose sight of the actual goal of running a successful and sustainable community radio station and instead use (and abuse) the station as a battlefield on which to act out some larger sociopolitical struggle. What the station stands for becomes more important than the station itself, and nobody wins. In Pacifica’s case, they stand to lose it all. Continue reading “Here Comes the Hammer: Pacifica to Lease Out WBAI”
We’re about to lose one of the most important independent voices in grassroots radio journalism. Free Speech Radio News announced late last week that it would cease production on September 27th.
In a nutshell, the problem is money, and the writing’s been on the wall for a while. Free Speech Radio News has been hurting in that department since the fall of 2010, when it first raised the spectre of going dark. Saved by a last-minute crowdfunding campaign, FSRN’s been teetering on the brink ever since, held together by creative management, another emergency fund drive, and the passion of its crowdsourced production base. That can only take you so far, it would seem. Continue reading “The Long Goodbye of Free Speech Radio News”
The Federal Communications Commission is busy preparing for an onslaught of applications for new low-power FM (LPFM) stations: the filing window opens on October 15th and closes on the 29th. Interested applicants should already be hard at work preparing, because building a radio station from scratch is not a simple process.
But there have been and will be some important info-dumps that can help demystify the issues. In chronological order: Continue reading “55 Days and Counting: Informative Events for LPFM Applicants”