One Hundred New Pirate Radio StationsÂ… or Maybe 1000

Kirsten Anderberg explores what volunteers with Freak Radio Santa Cruz, Free Radio Olympia and Radio Free Cascadia think about the recent FCC raid on Freak Radio in her new article “One Hunderd New Pirate Radio Stations.” She also gives a good overview of the events that led up to the raid.

I agree that one hundred new stations only makes it harder to shut the movement down. But what about 1000?

Transmitters are cheap. Cheaper than computers, and if you go under 20 watts, they’re cheaper than iPods, for crying out loud.

But you don’t even have to broadcast at multi-watt power if that level of power and risk makes you nervous. Small, low-powered transmitters keep getting cheaper and easier to find, partially thanks to the popularity of iPods and mp3 players.

You can easily mod a $30 Griffin iTrip or Belkin TuneCast to extend it’s range a few more yards. Or if you’re not too afraid of a soldering iron, you can put together a Ramsey FM-10c or just buy an assembled CanaKit UK108 for $18 and you just have to put it in a case like this.

Incidentally, the CanaKit is the same transmitter that the Walker Art Center gave away hundreds of during their Radio ReVolt project. They have also posted a list of places to buy low-power and micropower transmitters.

With any of these ultra-low-power “legal” Part 15 transmitters you can easily cover a dorm, apartment building or city block. If you don’t mind exceeding Part 15 limits you can pretty easily get your signal out a quarter mile or more. Your audience is smaller than a 20 watt station, but so is your risk. But if you and ten friends each get together with a station, then you’ve got a network.

Of course, countless pirate stations are currently on the air with 10s of watts without ever being bothered by the FCC. Many of them don’t run 24/7, don’t do much publicity, or otherwise haven’t managed to get themselves onto the FCC’s enforcement agenda.

It’s important to remember that stations like Freak Radio kept a high profile in their community. The benefit is that it engendered community support, and probably contributed to the station being on the air for nine years before being shut down. The downside, is that it makes you an easy target.

There are many different ways to get on the air, from super-micro-power to low-power, from 24/7 to an hour a week, out in the open, or underground. I say, choose your method and do it.

If you’re so inclined, has a nice list of sellers for both ultra-low Part 15 transmitters, and higher watt units.