16 Apr

Air America Micro Radio

I’ve been mulling over an idea, lately. You’ve heard of Air America Radio, the new liberal talk radio network, right? The network that doesn’t have a Seattle station (or stations in many other cities, at this point)? I’ve heard lots of people complaining they can’t listen to it in their city.

Well, why sit around and wait for some local station to start broadcasting? We have the Internet. Sure, you say, but what good does that do if we want to get away from our desktop computer?

Here’s what good it does. It makes it possible for us to broadcast Air America content ourselves if we want to. Over the public airwaves. Just like the network affiliates. We, as in, “any random schmuck with an Internet connection and $35-45 to spend.” And it’s legal, too.

Here’s what I mean. Sure, none of us own radio stations. None of us have FCC licenses (well, I did once, but the FCC eliminated my license class so it’s worthless now). None of us have the big bucks required to be broadcasters — but wait, that’s not true. The FCC allows certain low-power transmitters to broadcast without a license. These are the kinds of transmitters that drive-in theaters or real estate agents use: transmitters that broadcast a signal a very short distance.

Now, they say you are limited to a range of 200 feet. True enough. But… in dense neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Lower Queen Anne, First Hill, the University District, etc., don’t you think it would be possible to get a transmitter every 175 feet or so? Perhaps all broadcasting on the same frequency or something, so it has the effect of a larger station?

Maybe this could actually be organized somehow. A co-op network to broadcast Air America on low-powered Part 15-compatible transmitters, until such time as they get a station here.

Those who live near a park or other public plaza could point their transmitters at the public places so people could hang out and listen if they wanted to. (Heck, do that even if you don’t broadcast Air America. Broadcast anything! Take back the airwaves!)

All you need is one of these transmitter kits:
A small AM transmitter

An FM transmitter — we have this one now and have been using it to broadcast a BBC station throughout our house. Before that it played random MP3s.

Don’t want a kit? Well, you can shell out the big bucks to get a ready-made high-falutin’ transmitter like this.

Once you’ve got your transmitter, start playing the feed of Air America or your chosen source on your computer. Using a simple patch cord, plug one end into the computer and the other into the transmitter. You’re now a “network affiliate.” Let your neighbors know they can listen. (If you’re a true geek like Jason you can write scripts to keep the station on the air even after network interruptions and such, but such geekitude isn’t required.)

Seriously. Pass this idea on. Let a thousand transmitters bloom.

(If you do try this, please post here or trackback, or something.)

Edited to add: Oh yeah, the copyright issue. Well, technically you’re only broadcasting a low powered signal to cover your own property, right? 😉 You’re just amplifying the computer signal so you can hear it while out working in the yard or something. Right?

…And besides, it’s for a good cause.

12 thoughts on “Air America Micro Radio

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  3. I am microbroadcasting Air America Radio at 1 watt of power to my local community. I have been doing this for a year now. And despite what James Jones says, Air America now has 56 affiliates of the licensed type so I don’t think they are going away anytime soon.

  4. Excellent! I am glad to see that other people are doing this. We have an AA affiliate in Seattle now, so the Seattle microbroadcast has ended. (Seattle folks, tune to AM 1090 to hear Air America now.) But there are other things being microbroadcast in our neighborhood now. 🙂

  5. I have boosted the power of my radio station from 1 watt to 25 watts. A friend of mine built me a 25 watt Class A linear amplifier and it is great. Now more of the local community can listen to Air America Radio. I hope more people get their own microbroadcasting stations on the air!

  6. This is exactly what I was thinking about. The program I would like to broadcast is Democracy Now by Amy Goodman. I was thinking about how this might be made interesting for coffee houses. Do you think coffee house owners would setup a micro broadcast if they had a plug for their biz in the broadcast? HAnyone want to start a coop doing this ?!

  7. I was thinking about something like this and I googled Micro Air America affiliate and I found your site, and I have started a projec to do this! http://microair.blogsome.com/ is the web site.

    My idea is to use a $45 wifi router running linux and program it to connec to an open wifi hotspot and tune into the stream and then use the USB port with an audio usb adapter to play the sound and pump that into the ramsey transmitter – I think it can be put together for ~$100 – it will be low power so solar power is an option.

  8. Kevin,

    You say your broadcast went from 1 watt to 25 watts, can one modify the cheap ramsey AM transmitter to operate at 25 watts by adding an amplifier?

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