MUTINY ON THE AIRWAVES OR, HOW TO BE A RADIO PIRATE By Xav Leplae"Every transistor radio by nature of its construction is at the same time a potential tranemitter...by circuit reversal. The development from a mere distribution medium to a communication medium io...coneciouely prevented for understandable political reasons. The technical distinction between receivers and transmitters reflects the social division of producers and consumers." -Hans Magnus Enzensberger, 1974 Everybody can own a TV and everybody can own a radio, but how many of us own a TV or radio station? It is far from impossible, and it's easier to do now more than ever, because we now have camcorders, inexpensive audio equipment, and new wireless technology helping us jump onto the airwaves and speak to each other. A Mr. Microphone is a radio transmitter, and a garage door opener is a radio transmitter. Cellular sations are picked up by some TV sets.So it is not technology, but the political and commercial potential of mass communications that is keeping access to the airwaves out of the public's hands. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has prevented most people from transmitting by ruling that only those who can meet exhorbitantly expensive standards of land and equipment ownership can apply for licensing. The airwaves are property only a few are licensed to use, but with technology that's within everybody's reach, you can trespass onto these spaces. It is not as though there is no room for it. Every empty channel on your TV set, and every empty frequency on your radio dial, could be filled with programming, if more people knew how to hot wire the airwaves. Tetsuo Kogawa, a Japanese media activist, faxed us his design for a cheap FM radio transmitter. He's been doing pirate radio and television for years in Japan, and his "narrowcasts" cover a college campus with this device. You should be able to build it for $20-50. HOW TO USE THE "BLACK BOX" by Tetsuo Kogawa Prepare the following materials: - tape recorder with mini plug cable coming from audio out. - 12v/500mA, or 12v DC power supply, or 1 2v regulator for car battery power. - radio antenna, preferably vertical dipole, with enough wire to reach antenna from place of transmission . - the "Black Box." To build the system: 1. Extend the pole of a rod antenna to 85cm across. This is the length for 88MHz on your radio dial. 2. Attach the antenna to a plastic or wooden stick (not metal) at least I meter in length, using duct tape. 3. Connect the wire between the antenna and the Black Box using the coaxial cable connector. Make sure the connection is right; if you use the Black Box without doing so, the power transistor may get damaged 4. Fix the antenna on a high place, like a rooftop or a tree. The higher the better. 5. Connect the audio cable from the headphone jack or line out to the audio in on the Black Box (check that the volume is down on the tape player). 6. Everything OK? If so, connect the 12v power to the Black Box (never mix up plus and minus!). One watt should be at the 12v. 7. Start your tape player, tune your radio to 88MHz, and you will find the signal. Bring up the volume little by little until you've reached the appropriate level. Now you are an independent narrowcaster. The good thing about 88MHz is that you get farther range with less power than at higher frequencies. Also 88.0 is much less likely to be occupied by a stronger transmission, because it is an unpopular location, "the far left" of the radio dial. Kogawa also recommends using a number of these transmitters. By having one transmitter pick up the signal from the initial broadcast about half a mile away, and retransmitting it so that other transmitters can pick it up, you can begin to cover a substantial part of a city. A pirate group in Wisconsin called WANTED recommends using carrier-current, which sends your signal through the electric current that comes to your home and brings it to any radio in the area that's plugged into a wall socket receiving power from the same transformer. Usually one transformer covers several blocks, or one skyscraper. It works by just plugging your transmitter into a wall socket. If you want to get your antenna really high, attach it to a helium balloon, like the US government does for transmission of TV Marti, which invades Cuba's wavespace. In fact, since the US government broadcasts 24 hours a day across borders into nations whose governments totally oppose its reception, regardless of what licensed programming might be on the frequencies, you could say the feds are the biggest lawbreakers of all. So it's all-American to be a broadcast pirate! One pirate told me that he used a car battery to power his transmitter in an apartment in the Bronx, placed the antenna on the roof of the building, and had a loose cable connecting the transmitter to the antenna through his window. That way, if there was danger of getting caught he would just pull out the cable from the antenna, and push the whole system under his bed. This made it very safe because the FCC can track down the origin of a transmission in 15-20 minutes, but to get a search warrant for every residence in an apartment building takes days or weeks. So if you're in a city, transmit from a large apartment building. They are also good because you can put your antenna t very high up. WANTED, in Wisconsin, sometimes directly overrides the commercial television and radio networks within a radius of two or three miles by transmitting simultaneously from several vehicles, which makes detection by the FCC much more difficult. WANTED recommends locating your equipment in a panel truck and transmitting from an antenna on a nearby rooftop. They have been broadcasting TV intermittently for three years, and have not gotten caught yet. The equipment to broadcast television is a bit more extensive and expensive than radio but not very hard to work with. Your biggest expense most likely will be your camera, or your jail sentence. Just kidding! If you transmit less than 15 minutes at a time, you can't get tracked down by the FCC. They usually need to be clued in to your transmissions by your own attempts at publicity or a complaint from someone picking up your signal. Most people get off for their first offense. The first fine is $750, or one year's worth of ham sandwiches.
Xav Leplae is a member of Paper Tiger Television.
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