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-Microradio in the U.S.
-General Pirate Radio
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It is disturbing to see how consolidation
in the radio industry is leading to the gobbling up of radio stations
by major companies. Evergreen Media just swept through the Chicago market,
taking a gangsta-rap station and changing it into born-again gospel overnight!
However, there is a small way to fight
against the tide. Granted, not all the ways may be legal, but they are
Raid the chief engineer's closet.
A lot of stations, after being bought out by the some monolith, traditionally
do some downsizing. There's been a lot of outcry about the dwindling amount
of local programming available on the airwaves, but station engineers
are getting hard hit, too. Why keep one person on the payroll for each
station if it's not necessary (FCC rules now allow for unattended operation),
or contracted technicians can do the job at half the cost?
Because of this, lots of that engineering
equipment may not be needed by the local corporate station cluster. Keep
a good eye and ear on your local radio market; if you get a whiff of changes,
confirm them, and then hit up the station (under the guise of an amateur
broadcaster or some other professional) to see about purchasing some of
their gear. You may be able to get bargain-basement prices on some of
it, and most engineers also have good libraries of technical specs and
other helpful documentation. Chances are the station is just looking to
clear out some space for another member of the sales staff anyway, so
you may be in for a good deal.
Hijack the station during automation.
I'm not enough of a rogue to do this, but I could if I wanted to. Two
stations I used to work for go into automated satellite programming at
six in the evening every weekend, and until six the next morning, there's
no one around. Except for one deadbolt there's not much stopping anyone
from getting into the building, taking the station out of automation,
and going solo. Of course, your fun on the air won't last long, but it
sure would be a good way to wake up that station and its parent company,
and would make one hell of a statement about just how much commercial
radio cares about its responsibilities. If you're a little more technically
inclined, you can do the same thing from a distance....
Hack the station's remote control.
Similar to the above scenario, this one's a little more technologically
savvy. Stations across the nation are moving to computer-controlled transmitters
and air signals. Where I work, the station's FM transmitter can be turned
off or on, diagnostic checks can be made, and the air signal itself can
all be controlled from a telephone. Touch-tone some special codes, and
voila! It's air time! I actually have done this before, once in the middle
of the night during a tornado warning. It's kind of a freaky feeling sitting
in your pajamas in your kitchen talking on the phone and knowing your
voice is being heard for miles. But with a few simple numbers dialed,
anyone can do it. Then, all you'd need is a phone patch into some audio
equipment, and you're in control. The sound quality may suck, but the
point will be made.
Commercial radio, as a whole, is getting
too complacent about it's ruling of the broadcast spectrum. Anyone with
the right inclinations and a little technical know-how could make life
very difficult for many companies. Instead of getting on the air after
toiling over your own equipment, why not broadcast on something already
set up and running?