VOA’s Radiogram Brings New Utility to Shortwave

The Voice of America is set to launch a new communication service on shortwave radio with interesting implications for information flow in crisis situations or under repressive regimes.

Called Radiogram, the service uses digital encoding to transmit text and images via analog shortwave broadcasts. The transmissions themselves sound much like old dial-up modems (at root the technologies are identical, in that both involve the conversion of data to audio), but when decoded on an equipped receiver or computer the text and images appear. Read More

Documentaries Give Props to Pirate Radio

My pal Paul Riismandel over at Radio Survivor recently wrote about a new pirate radio-based mockumentary that’s airing on the BBC. People Just Do Nothing profiles the principals behind “Kurupt FM,” a fictitious Garage-format pirate station in the London area.

People Just Do Nothing found its roots in (and lampoons) another pirate radio documentary, Tower Block Dreams. Aired in 2004 on BBC Three, this flick profiled the booming pirate scene in the London area, with special attention on how pirate radio stations helped disenfranchised youth do something more creative with their lives than “thieving and grass dealing.”

People Just Do Nothing‘s main characters, MC Sniper and DJ Beats, are spot-on caricatures of the folks found in Tower Block Dreams. Relatively accurate with regard to the conditions under which pirate radio stations operate, the funny comes when you realize that Sniper and Beats have no real idea what the f*ck they’re doing. It’s a send-up that really drives home the differences between the U.K. and U.S. pirate scenes. Read More

FCC Enforcement: Old and New

A much-overdue update to the Enforcement Action Database is done. So far in 2011, the FCC has conducted less than 100 enforcement actions – way down from this time last year, when 359 were already on the books.

The major changes to this year’s enforcement trends include an apparent stiffening of fiscal penalties and a diversification of enforcement across all broadcast bands. On the first point, the FCC seems to be increasing fines from the base-penalty of $10,000. Not that this actually works as a deterrent: in cases where an unlicensed broadcaster demonstrates an inability to pay, fines must be radically reduced. Read More