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News Archive: January 2005

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1/31/05 - Commercial Stations Interfere With Airplanes [link to this story]

A couple of reports surfaced this month about a station in Louisiana changing frequencies due to interference to aviation radio channels. The 50,000-watt station in question broadcast on 107.9 FM and is owned by Cumulus Broadcasting, and the interference reportedly involved intermodulation between it and another station in east Texas.

Unlike last year's hype of a pirate station in Florida interfering with aircraft communications, the Louisiana interference affected the instrument navigation signals of several airports, including the Barksdale Air Force Base.

This is an important point: aviators usually have several radio channels available to talk with ground controllers and other aircraft, but there's not that same sort of redundancy for radio navigation systems. And whereas in Florida a guy in a helicopter reported the problems (meaning he could precisely control the location of his aircraft in order to pick out the worst areas of interference to hype), this was affecting all aviation in the area.

Although the FCC, FAA, and Air Force have been looking into the problem "for weeks," the offending station has since moved down the dial, displacing another Cumulus-owned station until the situation is resolved (it certainly didn't help Cumulus that the interference-generating station happened to be the top-rated station in the local cluster).

The general manager of the Cumulus cluster in Shreveport, C.J. Jones, explains the situation this way:

It's a whole bunch of weird, should-never-happen circumstances that came together and nobody foresaw it. We never had any reports of aircraft that ever went off the flight path or got in any danger, but I can understand the concern, being in these monstrous aircraft and you're going along and all of a sudden you've got a great song in your ear.

The real problem here is one the National Association of Broadcasters tried to pin on LPFM back in the day: the "shoehorning" of stations into places on the FM dial where they probably don't belong. If offending stations in question operated at lower power levels and/or were required to have more distance separation between them this problem never would have occurred. Commercial broadcasters, however, have whittled away at interference protection rules over the years to the point where problems like this do occur - and they are undoubtedly more commonplace than what gets reported.

While researching this story I found this interesting document which reports problems of radio interference on C-130 cargo/combat aircraft. It appears that RF from the planes' own radio communication devices can bleed into the electronics that provide engine propeller control on the aircraft, leading to an unannounced loss of power. This just goes to show that interference to aircraft doesn't even have to involve an external source.

1/29/05 - Social Forum Threatens its Broadcast Voice; Sounds of Shortwave Restored [link to this story]

The basic story is here, but this is the synopsis: the annual World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brasil is in full swing. The Forum had an "official" radio station broadcasting from the events, but that was apparently hijacked by NGOs, sucking the community right out of what was to be a community radio project. So a "people's station" was established, with volunteers from all over the world donating gear and time to making it work. The official station's burned out two transmitters - so "The Other Radio FM" happens to be the sole voice of the Forum.

Now it seems that the Brasilian government has a desperate weekend need for the very (small) premises the station is broadcasting from - which may lead to its forcible removal. That would be a shame in the midst of a meeting about how to make the world a better place. Violating Article 19 wasn't on the agenda, although Lula's regime does have a history of being unfriendly to free radio.

Thanks to the recent server upgrade there's more storage and bandwidth to burn. Hence the ~950 megabyte four-volume Sounds of Shortwave archive is back online, content courtesy of Alex Draper's tenaciousness. While this particular archive is represents a snapshot in time, Alex refreshes his site with new recordings.

1/28/05 - Translational Bonus [link to this story]

Partially in celebration of catching up on the Truthful Translations, and partially in reaction to the (U.S.) national mood as of late, let us take a sonic trip back 14 years to where the past becomes the present, courtesy of Chris Burke:

Flag City (MP3, 2:33, 2.4 MB)

Take that, ribbon-magnet mongers....

1/25/05 - Churn at the FCC [link to this story]

Mikey Powell's giving up the ghost (don't look back, buddy); Kathleen Abernathy may follow; and W. Kenneth Ferree, head of the FCC's Media Bureau, is also done. Also, Michael Copps' term expires in the summer. It's unusual to have such turnover in a short time. Can we expect substantive change in the agency's direction?

Probably not. The replacements will not be reformists: they're straight from the farm team that breeds regulators. These being three primary sources: campaign contributors, congressional staffers, and those already in administrative positions. All of the (speculative) candidates for a Commissioner's post hail from one of these places. Congressional staff are an especially fertile ground, seeing as it sometimes seems easiest for the two major parties to agree on the appointment of folks already within the family, so to speak.

Ultimately, it's hard to envision what bona fide change can come from a new crew singing the same old song. Perhaps rhetorical shifts will occur, but on substantive policy? Optimism's justified in the short term, especially seeing as how the Media Bureau itself may be rudderless for a time. Tough for the FCC to ram through controversial rulemakings, like rewriting its media ownership boondoggle before everybody walks away. Time for reformists to get strategic and actually go on the offensive for a change.

For those already opted-out of the system: it's business as usual, carry on.

Administrative note: the home computer is home again, comprehensive updates to the rest of the site (bringing it fully into the new year) commence tomorrow.

1/21/05 - Black Boognish Project Online [link to this story]

Given my personal penchant for Ween, when I heard wxm had no online distribution for his mashup project I was quick to volunteer. Therefore, The Black Boognish now has a permanent home at and as each track is completed it will premiere there. Two tracks are in the can so far; a third, "HIV Problems," is in production now. wxm says he hopes to finish a track a week, meaning the project will take three months minimum to finish. If you've got suggestions on mashup ingredients hit him up via e-mail.

1/18/05 - KBFR Gone For Good: "FCC is trying some very scary new tactics." [link to this story]

Straight from the mouth of Monk:

Please report that we are, after almost 5 years on the air, indeed, shut down for good and out of business. Obituary coming out soon. Our yearly benefit [happening this Thursday] will become a wake/legal defense fund.

This implies that there's a legal struggle brewing in the courts, details unknown - although a team of lawyers is on the case (including some from the Dunifer defense crew). I'm working on the details, stay tuned.

1/17/05 - Inaugural Insurgency to be Broadcast, Relayed [link to this story]

Back around the holidays CNN ran a story about a pirate radio station in D.C. calling for "massive protests" during Bush II's second inauguration (happening this Thursday, with the festivities running into the weekend). The unexpected exposure caused WSQT, or "The Squat," to switch broadcasts from the AM to FM band. The station is now also semi-mobile, transmitting with a five-watt brick which it claims can be heard for several miles. There's apparently quite the engineer behind this operation, as most if not all of the gear in use is homebrew and built especially for the job at hand.

WSQT's also posted some new audio to IMC-Radio: snippets of public service announcements the station's been running in the runup to the inaugural action. Other tactical radio projects may be in the works and any streams coming out of D.C. will be rebroadcast via microradio (check with your local station for times). It was the 2000 inauguration protests that really demonstrated the power of the impromptu radio network model, which has only grown more advanced in the last four years.

1/16/05 - Pirate Radio USA Almost In the Can [link to this story]

The feature length film is currently in the touch-up phase with most elements locked into place. The producer tells me a trailer will be available most likely by next month, with the project itself to wrap by the end of February. Then the festival-submission process begins - one of the first copies will go to Cannes (cross your fingers). The soundtrack will include several properly thematic songs, including a few that have been featured as ear candy here.

1/15/05 - Boulder Free Radio Off the Air [link to this story]

The transmitter location got a visit on Tuesday afternoon - coincidentally the one-year anniversary of "first contact." Station founder Monk says, "this feels somehow different [from] other FCC visits." That inkling is not completely new: the FCC began numbering the warning letters left in Boulder recently - perhaps an indicator that the agency is attempting to build a case against the station in preparation for stronger enforcement action. KBFR's web site reads "RIP" but something tells me this isn't the end just yet...

1/11/05 - Just When Jay-Z Thought He Was Safe... [link to this story]

Last year it was all the rage: the acapella version of Jay-Z's Black Album got mashed up with a plethora of unlikely accompaniment. There was The Grey Album (Beatles), The Slack Album (Pavement), The Double Black Album (Metallica), The Black and Blue Album (Weezer), The Black Album Unplugged (Nirvana), and many more.

The saga continues now with Jay-Ween. The album, The Black Boognish, may be late to the party and it's still early in the production stage but one rough track is now in the wild. Enjoy:

Homo Service Announcement (MP3, 2:48, 6.5 MB)

1/9/05 - Localism Backlash in Massachusetts [link to this story]

The Vox Radio Group is a regional player in the radio business, owning more than 30 stations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Like most broadcast companies it's been culling staff over the last several years, but when it let go George Trottier, meteorologist of 32 years at WNAW-AM in North Adams, Massachusetts, some karmic line got crossed.

The station got pummeled with feedback from angry listeners - so much so that the WNAW's general manager re-hired him less than a week later. Publicly: live, on the air, during the morning show.

"Trottier called in and accepted a job offer via phone from the radio station manager David Luyk, who had gone on air to impress upon the public that the corporate station still had community roots. When Trottier called in, he said: 'I am looking for an accurate forecast. Do you know where I can get one?'"

The news guy, who got canned last year, is still out of luck.

1/7/05 - LPFM Day at FCC Confirmed; A Cocky Monkey [link to this story]

LPFM Day is February 8 at FCC headquarters. The event is akin to a "mini trade show," a chance for advocates of low power radio to show off the technology and talk up its benefits to FCC staffers. The Prometheus Radio Project is organizing a mini-conference on LPFM for the day before. It is even rumored that Mikey Powell may grace the event with his presence - the least he can do for failing to accomplish anything substantive as far as advancing the rollout of LPFM stations.

SF Weekly has a new feature on Pirate Cat Radio. Since 1997 this "punk as fuck" station has, according to its founder, "Monkey," received more than 120 warning notices from the FCC while operating unmolested in Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles. So far it's been on in the Bay area for some two years and nary a peep from the FCC. Telling tall tales? Consider this: he blames the October 2003 raid of San Francisco Liberation Radio on interference SFLR caused to Oakland International Airport - yet he chuckles about complaints from neighbors when Pirate Cat messes up TV reception, and it hindered reception of at least one Los Angeles station during its run there.

I'm all for being "punk as fuck," but damned if the devil-may-care attitude that comes with the territory tends to get damagingly narcissistic over time. Pirate Cat's also branching out into TV, taking advantage of FRB's new TV transmitter kits to occupy Channel 13. Video broadcasts are supposed to have begun this month.

Finally, a quick apology for the lack of substantive site updatage. We managed to switch DIYmedia to a new server over the holiday period without anyone noticing, but my home computer fritzed out this week and it's still in hospital, taking an uncomfortably large chunk of my life with it.

1/6/05 - Like Food Stuck In Teeth [link to this story]

How to break news to a friend that they're looking a bit uncouth? It's not easy.

Recently I stumbled across the web site of a group called the National Association of Microbroadcasters. This sort of idea's been tried before but, given the nature of the free radio movement in the United States, such groups have never lasted very long (and the few still in existence are very low-key). Not so the NAMB: boasting more than 40 "member stations," "covering 194,000 [square] miles," this is quite a boost from the blue, if true.

Further exploration of the site, however, tempered my enthusiasm. Specifically, the link off the front page labeled, "What is The Law?" This takes you to a page with eight links on it. Some of them are pretty benign, like links to the Communications Act of 1934 and various pieces of U.S. Code applicable to the FCC. Sprinkled in are links to dubious legal memoranda whose basic gist is that the FCC does not have the jurisdiction to license stations that do not broadcast over state lines. One link here even includes a scanned image of a letter one Eric Johnson of Everett, WA received from a functionary at the FCC: it claims that "intra-state radio communications may be regulated by individual states, and I would recommend contacting your State Utility Commission for further information."

Here's where it gets tricky: the spirit behind this initiative is certainly commendable, but the justification is questionable. Perhaps the best remedy to this dilemma is the facts, unpleasant as they may be. Read on for further enlightenment, and remember, I'm on your side!