Archive | December, 2004

On This Week’s Radioshow: Interview with Radio Free Moscow’s (Idaho) Leigh Robartes

Last night I had the opportunity to interview Leigh Robartes, who is one of the founders of Radio Free Moscow KRFP, in Moscow, ID. KRFP is one of the three stations that currently airs the mediageek radioshow. We talked about how the station got on the air and the media scene in the Moscow area. Leigh was one of the first strikers against Pacifica who helped form Free Speech Radio News in the late 90s, and is an acute observer of independent radio.

Even though there are tens of new LFPM stations going on the air around the country, I think it’s very instructive to hear from individual stations and understand why they bothered to get LPFM licenses and hear some of the creative ways they have of running and funding stations. I hope hearing these stories will act as incentive for other people to start their own stations.

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news headlines for 12-3-04 radioshow

These are the news headlines as read on the Dec. 3, 2004 edition of the mediageek radioshow: Patrick Thompson’s Eavesdropping Charge Dropped; Champaign Considers Educational Programming for City Cable Channel; FCC Hearing on Media Consolidation; Michael Powell Says Ownership Regs a Way Off; PA Law Limits Municipal Wireless.

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For What It’s Worth — Belkin TuneCast II Mod Works

Earlier this year I threw in my two cents regarding the iPirate meme circling the blogosphere, with people modifying the iTrip mini FM transmitter for the iPod in order to eke out a few more feet of broadcast power. And just last week I mentioned in passing that some other mini transmitters, like the Belkin TuneCast II, can also be modded for better output.

So, I got myself a TCII for about half the $60 retail price to play around with and use to broadcast ‘net audio around the house. I chose the TCII because it seemed easily modified, and because it apparently has PLL tuning to any frequency in the FM band, making it flexible and unlikely to drift off-frequency.

Out of the box the results are pretty crappy. It’s designed for use in a car, and it’s fine for the distance between the dash and the radio, but pretty staticky between two rooms 15′ apart.

So I cracked it open and added about a yard of wire to the antenna connection on the circuit board, per these directions, and sure enough, it covers my ranch house pretty well. I don’t think it’s any better than what you’d get from a transmitter kit like the Ramsey FM-10. But the one advantage the TuneCast has is that PLL tuning, since the FM-10 is notorious for drifting off its set frequency, even after just a few hours.

I wouldn’t want to amplify the signal out of the TCII, just like I expressed some caution about amplifying the iTrip. These little transmitters just aren’t made for real broadcasting and therefore don’t have clean output that won’t interefere with other stations without some kind of massive filtering that wouldn’t be worth the effort when much better transmitters can be had for $100.

But for dorm-casting, or covering a small area with an FM signal, it ain’t bad. I may screw with it a little more to see if there’s a better way to connect up an antenna and see if there’s any advantage to using a dipole or j-pole type of antenna. I’ll definitely post any results.

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Berkeley Daily Planet on FRB’s Pirate TV

The Berkeley Daily Planet covers Free Radio Berkeley’s unlicensed TV plans:

Starting next week, would-be TV producers can get from Free Radio Berkeley the parts they need for an estimated $500 to $1100, depending on the power level.

Once assembled—a process Dunifer claims is no harder than putting together a stereo—the transmitters are capable of reaching four to five miles. They can be hooked up to a DVD player to show prerecorded material or to a video camera for a live broadcast. …

The FCC didn’t return calls for comment.

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Pennsylvania, a State Captured by the Telecomm Industry

Sascha very meticulously deconstructs the recent “victory” for the city of Philadelphia to continue with its free municipal wi-fi network, as part of a legislative compromise that still hands over control of future municipal wi-fi to the telcomm industry. After a couple of years, communities in Pennsylvania will be allowed to construct their own wi-fi networks only after they give first right of refusal to private telcomm companies.

The deal cut by Verizon and Philadelphia is a red herring — it detracts attention from the real issue — shouldn’t communities be allowed to choose the type of service they require. Instead, many communities will find themselves bogged down in red tape, having their local decision-making power trumped by a private industry. …

PA residents will be forced to pay more, receive inferior services (as Verizon’s history clearly documents), and have other options for application of their Community Wireless Network completely removed from the table. …

[T]his law means that you can’t change the regulations without the consent of the very industries that the regulations are supposed to regulate… anyone else find that a bit strange?

I guess I’m a little more cynical, but I don’t find it strange at all. This is just another example of the big lie of regulation and deregulation.

Not a single industry in the US wants to be truly deregulated — that is, they don’t want to exist in an economy that is utterly absent regulation. Rather, what industry wants is regulation that is constructed according to its needs and desires.

While the commonly accepted motive for regulation is to reign in “free market” forces in order to serve the public good, more often than not, this is not reality.

The point of most regulation is provide economic advantage to particular players, industries or companies at the disadvantage of others. Thus, in the case of this Pennsylvania wi-fi law, the regulation provides advantage to the telecomm industry at the disadvantage of municipalities and their citizens. It explicitly places the profits of Verizon as a higher priority than actual network access to residents.

The big media conglomerates may bitch and moan about the FCC, but if it weren’t for the monopolistic desires of RCA/NBC and the other big radio giants in the 1920s, there would be no FCC. They asked for it, they got it, primarily to drive out the educational, non-profit and amateur broadcasters which they accused of creating “chaos” on the airwaves.

As a result, the FCC is largely a captured, toothless regulatory body, which pays occasional lip service to the notion of public interest, but mostly resolves battles between players within the media and telecomm industries.

How else do you explain the NAB trying to push the FCC to regulate satellite radio more like broadcast radio, or the initiative of at least one broadcast TV company to get the FCC to regulate indecency on satellite TV?

What do these things have to do with the “free market” and deregulation? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

The telcomm and media industry need the FCC and state regulatory bodies to clear the path for their monster profits and strip mining of public assets like right-of-way and spectrum. They only cry deregulation when they can’t exert 100% control and they don’t get their way.

Show me a telecomm CEO who truly advocates the abolishment of the FCC, and I’ll show you a guy who’ll soon be out of a job.

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