From the June 2004 Idaho Observer:
Liberty Fix at Six
A forum for discussing the importance and methodology of establishing a national network of Low Power Radio Stations
by Mike Heit
Hello and welcome to The Idaho Observer column on mircobroadcasting. Please forgive my being absent for last months article. My work, college classes and the onset of summer activities all combined to take up so much of my time that I simply did not get my article written for last month's publication date.
I have had several telephone calls and emails from readers of The Idaho Observer asking about LPFM and I would like to discuss some of the most frequently asked questions. In addition, I will be discussing a typical LPFM station set up and station format.
From G.C. in Montana: What is the FCC position on Micro Broadcasters operating without a license?
This is one of the most often asked questions that I have gotten over the years from readers, fellow patriots and others. The answer, which should be a simple one, unfortunately, is a difficult situation to try to make any sense of. In my first article we published a letter from a Ms. Martha Contee, Chief of the Public Service Division of the FCC office in Seattle, WA; Office of Public Affairs.
Ms. Contee admits in writing, on official FCC letterhead, that the FCC has no Constitutional jurisdiction in cases of Intra-State non-commercial broadcasting. Remember, the Federal government can only act in INTER-state commercial activities. She suggests that the individual writing the letter to her should contact the State Public Utility Commission for advice on any applicable State regulations for broadcasting. This leaves open the fact that a low power, non-commercial broadcasting operation, which operates only within the boundaries of an individual state, could be totally legal, and under no federal jurisdiction.
You can read the letter at my website: www.rockymountainreliable.us/lpfm-license.html
Such operation is entirely feasible with today's modern electronics design.
I sent a letter to the Washington State Public Utilities Commission about four months ago, and as of yet have not received a reply. Maybe I should resend it and ask for a signature to be sent back to let me know they actually got it? At this point, my question is this: What if a person or persons, were to form a Community Radio Group, say 10 or 12 individuals, and keep their power levels down to 100 watts or less, broadcast no commercial advertising that involved any form of Interstate commerce, and did not cross over a state border; would that constitute a station that did NOT fall under Federal jurisdiction [FCC]?
The only way to determine this would be to form an association that could put together such funding needed to take this case before a court, and get a legal ruling on it. Another method would be to form a group that can lobby for legislation for the use of LPFM /LPAM within the jurisdiction of the individual state. A model for such an organization could be made, that would allow self-regulation among the individual stations broadcasting, similar to Ultra Light flying as it has evolved today.
Forming a community group will bring added financial support, programming content and community support by virtue of networking amongst associates and friends each member of the group knows, which others in the group may not know or have a close association with. It is imperative that a community broadcasting effort be just that: A community effort. Have you ever noticed that it is usually individuals that get busted by FCC actions? We have known since childood that it is safer to go as a group.
The typical LPFM Station Setup
The photo in Figure 1 is a typical LPFM station set up.
The typical LPFM station can be as simple as a transmitter connected to an audio source such as a satellite audio channel, or as complex as any site NASA would build for launching space shuttles into orbit. It all depends on the financial commitment and effort on the part of the station owner(s).
In photo 1 is a typical LPFM station including, as seen from left to right, the 40 watt amplifier unit on the bottom of the left hand stack, the exciter unit in the left middle of the stack, and the VSWR meter used to measure antenna match as well as RF power output on the top of the stack.
On the right of the station set up is a mixer board on the top, and underneath the mixer board is an FM radio monitor / dual cassette deck / 3 disc CD player set.
I rescued this radio monitor from the local second hand store for $1. I use the radio to input music or audio from the dual cassette deck and the CD player. I can also use the FM radio receiver for a station monitor to listen to my own broadcast quality.
The mixer unit, as shown in this photo, allows up to six different input channels. It has two output channels and a built-in sound generator for sounds like cymbals, cow bells, etc.
Using a set of microphones I can also talk direct into the mixer, and from there, to the outputs. There is a separate phonograph not shown in the photo that is also part of this station set up.
The two outputs are divided; one is tied directly into the exciter input, and the other to the line in of the sound card on my computer. This way all audio I am transmitting can be recorded into files on my computer. I can also create play lists on my computer and play them out to the transmitter since the output of the soundcard is connected to one of the mixer channels.
I know it sounds complicated, but in actuality this basic set up is no more complicated than the average home entertainment center, and can reach a lot more people.
Power To The People
In order to make all this work, a good power supply is needed. The most basic part of the LPFM set up, the exciter, needs a well-regulated DC power supply.
In the exciters I build, one can use a car battery for at least a few hours before needing to recharge. However a power supply that can convert AC [Alternating Current] into DC [Direct Current] is needed for long term 24/7 operation. That is, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the air.
In Figure 2 is a power supply I build into my exciters for just that purpose. For the larger power units, 20 watt to 100 watt amplifier systems, larger and more complex power supplies are needed. They all run off of 120 Volts AC converted to DC, but the amperage is much higher in the more powerful amps.
The exciter uses just a mere 200 milliamps of power during full operation. The 100-watt amp in comparison will require 10 to 15 amps of current for full operation. The power to the transmitter set up must be well regulated, meaning that an increase in current draw from the load will be compensated for by the power supply, and remain constant.
Another important aspect of the power supply is the ability to filter out stray RF signals that can be induced into the AC line, and from surrounding equipment in the station. If not filtered properly, the induced signals can be amplified and transmitted on the air.
How much would it cost to operate an LPFM station you ask? I ran my 100-watt station for one year while measuring the consumed power and the additional cost above and beyond what our bill was for the previous years usage. The total operating cost for the station was $60 for the year (1999-2000). That is an average cost of 16 cents a day. This figure also included the computer running 24/7 to run play lists and other chores in the station management.
The Core Package
In the photo in Figure 3 below is the core package needed for on air transmission. An exciter, an amplifier (if higher than 5 watts) is desired, and a VSWR meter as an option if you want to monitor the output power and the standing wave ratio of the antenna system.
Many micro broadcasters have started out with just the 5-watt exciter unit, an antenna mounted about 30 feet off the ground and a signal input from either a satellite audio out, or even CD player. As the knowledge of on-air operations increased, and their financial means, so too did the complexity of their radio stations. In the process, the communities benefited from having truly free speech, patriotic broadcasting, local news and even a perspective on National and world-wide news that main stream media simply refuses to broadcast.
It is certain that if our Constitutional Republic is going to survive and be restored to the founder's intents, We the People must take back our airwaves and start educating our friends and neighbors.
In conclusion for June's column
I wish to thank you very much for all the supportive and encouraging phone calls and emails I have received from you. Please feel free to continue asking those important questions, and may God richly bless each and every one of you.
Next month we will cover programming formats and radio station management from the use of software and other items that can fully automate your system, and ease the burden of station management. Expensive you think? Not so. You'll be surprised at how inexpensive automation can be. I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to The Idaho Observer, a truly patriotic newspaper; with out whom our Republic would truly be destitute for the published truth.
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