Seattle is Radioactive!

It has been a busy couple of days since we arrived into town…the Seattle Independent Media Center has been an awesome hub of activity, serving as a workshop, reception space and newsroom. At any given time you can find people sawing lumber, soldering equipment and making stories.
The Reclaim the Media! events got rolling in earnest last night, and they have been well-attended. The schedule of panels, workshops, rallies and concerts is an ambitious one, and kind of works against everyone meeting en masse in a single location. Rallies at Freeway Park have been relatively sparsely attended, but that will probably change as the weekend progresses.
I have been working hard trying to follow the Mosquito Fleet of microbroadcasters who are here in quite a significant contingent, but it’s dicey because operating locations are scattered throughout the metropolitan area and those running the operations are understandably low-key about disclosing information. Needless to say, though, that there’s people from all over the country here, and they’re all fired up about firing up. I’ll have lots more about this when all is over and the immediate risks have passed.
Stations began appearing on the radio dial as early as Tuesday, and at least two frequencies have been pretty much continuously occupied for most of the week. Both of these channels are blanketing downtown Seattle quite nicely, and the IMC has set up a radio on the sidewalk to play the stations to passerby. Out of the 13 frequencies identified as being potential spots for microradio broadcasts, as many as eight have been simultaneously occupied. Power levels being used range between four and 150 watts, and since Seattle’s got lots of hills, it’s possible to site multiple low-watt transmitters on the same frequency in different locations around town.
Some stations are doing more programming than others (content is one of the last things they seem to think of when making their lists of things to bring), but those that are conducting extended broadcasts aren’t repeating much, which keeps things fresh.
Yesterday was the day when the Mosquito Fleet simulcast a special anti-Clear Channel screed produced by Negativland. It involved a 24-minute loop of programming aping local station KJR-FM. Somebody took a radio into the NAB convention hall and let attendees have a listen – many were confused and actually thought the pirate was KJR until the “DJ” began ripping KJR, Clear Channel and the NAB new ones on-air. You can listen to excerpts from the simulcast (recorded directly off the radio) at It was very cool to dial through the FM band and hear the send-up
So far, though, there haven’t been any overt moves by the FCC or any zealous radio engineers to squelch the stations (knock on wood). For now, though, people are doing a lot of talking and sharing of ideas – which makes for a good time, but doesn’t replace action, and outside of what’s on the air, there hasn’t been much of that yet. Stay tuned…