Happy Birthday, free103point9

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of free103point9, which initially began as a microradio station spinning interesting sounds from Brooklyn, New York’s Williamsburg neighborhood. It’s come a long way since then:
Largely blank slates, with little in the way of station identification or DJs talking back just-played records, experimental sounds of all sorts spilled out. The concept of “radio art” was just barely beginning to be explored…at that time….[T]he other inspiration behind starting the station was that the radio airwaves were dead zones that needed to be revived. The best way to locally communicate thoughts and new ideas was being wasted by a handful of corporations intent on turning the nation’s airwaves into private mints printing billions of dollars, polluting those airwaves as if they were pouring nuclear waste into national parks. …
With that in mind, the station went mobile, taking the transmitter directly to the people:
We saw the free103point9 transmitter as akin to something in a library, that local residents could “check out” for a few days, enabling them to inform, entertain, provoke, and educate the rest of the community….We could hoist antennae on close to 200 different northern Brooklyn rooftops, letting the hosts pick the content, and flyering the listening area a few days before each microcast….Eventually, we set up microphones and mixers inside living rooms throughout Brooklyn, broadcasting community forums, kids learning about radio, sound art, the audio for video programs, and much more.
While free103point9 was part of a growing movement of electronic civil disobedience that led to the creation of a legal LPFM radio service, “creativity remained stagnant. free103point9 turned to seeing what could be done with the airwaves, how they could be used in interesting, different ways, and how their conventions
could be subverted.”
“Transmission Arts” unite a community of artists and audiences interested in experimental radio ideas and tools. Transmission practices harness, occupy and/or respond to the airwaves that surround us.
The station has since transcended from a local outlet to something that supports the creative and artistic use of radio in every community. From incubating radio-artists to holding festivals and sponsoring installations showcasing their work to being a platform and advocate for the creative use of radio itself, free103point9 has come to represent the potential of microradio above and beyond simply ripping open a chunk of spectrum and demonstrating its viability to hold something. It is an accomplishment beyond inspiration, which puts the station in a class of its own, and for that we should all be grateful.