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”
What is LPFM?
LPFM stands for Low Power FM radio broadcasting. In the United States, the lowest minimum wattage a licensed FM radio station may have is 100 watts. There are lower-power FM transmitters in use, though, by some stations who want to increase their coverage area by extending their signal. These are called translators or boosters.
While these may only have a wattage measured in a range from dozens to hundreds, they are not true broadcast stations by the FCC’s definitions – they do not originate their own programming. They rely on a “parent” station to provide what they air.
Ham (amateur) radio uses a similar system called a repeater; people don’t broadcast from it. They shoot a signal into it, and then it gets re-broadcast to an area larger than what ham operators might reach with their own gear. In a nutshell, translators and boosters are the repeaters of FM radio.
LPFM is the common term used to define an FM broadcast station that originates its own programming but has the power of a translator or booster. Under current FCC rules, operating such a station is simply not allowed. You may also see LPFM referred to by other terms – like “LPRS,” “microradio,” and “mini-FM,” but they all mean the same thing. Continue reading “The History of LPFM”
Free Radio Berkeley founder Stephen Dunifer spoke recently at San Francisco’s Anarchist Bookfair. He provides a good summary of the current situation in Oaxaca and also situates it in a historical context, noting how radio has played a pivotal role in citizen’s/revolutionary movements throughout Latin America.
Dunifer spent 10 days in Oaxaca earlier this year, coordinating transmitter-construction workshops for indigenous communities in the state. Over the course of two weeks, they built two dozen transmitters. Ongoing projects include establishing regional transmitter-distribution facilities to keep flooding the airwaves with citizen voices.
Stephen Dunifer sent along this slick document: a four-page primer on why the airwaves are ripe for repossession and how to make it happen in your town. You get a concise overview of what the risks are and some basic tactical information. There’s a plug for Free Radio Berkeley’s more detailed graphic guide near the end. A good conversation-starter among activist-gatherings.
Mississippi: A crew from the Midwest has arrived in Waveland, Mississippi, where the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina made landfall. 30-foot storm surges left survivors literally naked – yet a tent city of sorts has blossomed among the destruction. “Radio Free Waveland” is now providing a 40-watt morale boost among those trying to make the most of a desperate situation (still no FEMA there).
District of Columbia: WSQT gave a fiery interview to the folks at Free Radio Santa Cruz this week. The station is currently off the air after donating its transmitter to Gulf Coast relief efforts and is also relocating following a visit from the FCC earlier this month. I’m a big fan of WSQT’s intensity: it is a guerrilla war, and time and numbers work in our favor.
California: Stephen Dunifer and volunteers with Free Radio Berkeley are assembling a 75-watt transmitter to send to New Orleans. Also, there have been more reports about Berkeley Liberation Radio returning to the air on a regular basis, although details remain sketchy.
Media Democracy Day is October 17. The holiday, begun by a group of Canadian media activists three years ago, is designed to “connect existing critical and creative media with active social movements, creating a coherent message for public attention and local and global action.”
In this spirit, Free Radio Berkeley founder Stephen Dunifer has issued a call to action for U.S. microradio stations to speak as one on October 17. In conjunction with workshops held around the country to teach interested folks the art of transmitter-building, microradio stations are encouraged to coordinate a nationwide simulcast. Continue reading “A Call to Seize the Airwaves on Media Democracy Day”
Free Radio Berkeley founder Stephen Dunifer updates his easy-to-read handbook with information on digital audio production and webcasting and the new realities of operating a microradio station in post-millenial America. Download it here (632K, .pdf format).
Its 25 pages are packed with useful information that thoroughly describes what you need to operate your basic microradio station and the general science behind FM broadcasting. It also includes schematics and circuit board layouts for most major components.
After moving his workshop last year, Dunifer is now also offering the use of his facilities for anyone interested in building their own rigs. It sounds like the 3-5 day project is a more detailed version of the transmitter-building workshops Dunifer and his crew have frequently run in the past.
During the last weekend in May, while many Americans were relaxing at the expense of those who gave their lives for their freedom, soldiers in a lower-profile domestic war gathered to plot their next moves in their fight.
The “Micropower Council of War” was called by Free Radio Berkeley founder Stephen Dunifer; if it were not for his ongoing battle with the government (through the courts), there would have been no blossoming of unlicensed radio stations – and no widespread microradio movement.
When the FCC announced its plans to re-legalize a low power FM (LPFM) radio service, Dunifer was one of the first to discount the move as political hype. Continue reading “Strategy Session”
Stephen Dunifer, founder of Free Radio Berkeley (FRB), has often been touted as a catalyst to the development of the U.S. microradio movement, and rightly so. He has been through a long and vigorous battle in the courts with the federal government over his 50-watt operation.
As his activism continued, the press finally got wind – hence the nationwide acclaim. Dunifer’s no stranger to working the press. Taken off the air after a setback in his case, Dunifer and FRB has been silent for nearly nine months now. Even so, it really came as no surprise when the following news release showed up today: Continue reading “FRB is Back”
There are many that say it’s no use to try to change something from the inside. Maybe it’s because they’re not sure how. Once again, legal experts in the microradio movement have a bright idea for tactics – use the FCC’s regulatory system as a tool! Written by Peter Franck, a member of the legal team defending Stephen Dunifer and Free Radio Berkeley.
This is a report, a proposal, and poses questions to the micro community. Please share this with groups that are not on line.
In the Dunifer case, Dunifer’s primary defense against the U. S. government’s request for a court injunction to stop him from broadcasting was that FCC Regulations barring low-power stations from getting a license were unconstitutional. The Court ruled that Dunifer did not have “standing” to raise this defense because he had not applied and asked for a waiver of the licensing provisions. In other words, the Court refused to consider the constitutionality of the regulations because Dunifer had not asked the FCC to waive those requirements which seem to make it impossible for a low-power broadcaster to get a license to broadcast lawfully. (The same Judge, early in the case, had expressed great doubt about the constitutionality of the FCC regulations. In this ruling she was refusing to consider the issue.) While we think the Judge’s reasoning is terribly wrong, the fact is that the FCC has been filing this Judge’s decision in other Courts around the country with some success. Continue reading “Working the System”